Coash, Michaelis duke it out over District 27 seat

Story by Rhiannon Root, NewsNetNebraska

On paper the two legislative candidates running for District 27 in Lincoln are very similar. Both are white. Both are men. Both are relatively young compared to most senators. Both are Roman Catholic. And both got involved in politics because each thought he could do better than the current establishment.

State Sen. Colby Coash (pronounced “Co-ASH”) is running for re-election. In 2008 he won the seat by just 79 votes. It’s his lucky number, Coash jokes. Coash is the first Republican to hold the seat since 1972. His opponent, Kyle Michaelis (pronounced “Muh-SHAY-less”) wants to usurp the post from Coash and restore the seat to its former progressive-style leadership.

While the two seem similar, they have several key differences in their political views. Coash is an advocate for the disabled and children. He opposes abortion and some forms of stem cell research. (He’s in favor of adult stem cell research.) And he favors balancing the state budget.

Michaelis favors developing green energy, particularly wind energy in Nebraska. (Coash does too, but he’s concerned about the total cost of such development.) Michaelis says women have the right to decide their own reproductive health. He favors stem cell research. He’s also very vocal about his disagreement with the Citizens United ruling in the Supreme Court that dealt political contributions.

Michaelis, a Homeland Security immigration officer and blogger, said he decided to run for the Nebraska Legislature because Coash was unopposed and didn’t deliver on his promises. In an Oct. 14 video on his website, Michaelis said Coash voted to cut state aid, which increased property taxes. And Coash promised to lower these taxes in his 2008 campaign, Michaelis pointed out.

Further, Michaelis said, Coash’s fundraiser with controversial conservative rock star Ted Nugent was insulting to the voters of District 27, who have previously elected liberal leaders such as DiAnna Schimek.

Controversy on the campaign trail

Nugent said the following about President Barack Obama just weeks before Coash’s fundraiser: “If Barack Obama becomes the president in November again, I will either be dead or in jail by this time next year.”

“Those aren’t Nebraska values,” Michaelis said.

Recent flyers for Michaelis’ campaign reference the fundraiser, cite a number of Nugent’s more controversial quotes and quote Coash as saying, “He’s a free speech guy. And so am I.” On the reverse side of the flyer the copy reads, “Hate isn’t a Nebraska value, for principled leadership you can trust vote Kyle Michaelis for Legislature.”

In response, Coash said, “(Nugent) is a friend, not my political adviser.” Coash said he makes his own decisions. “He doesn’t speak for me.”

Coash knows Nugent, an avid bow hunter, because Coash’s grandfather owns a bow string company. Nugent was in town for a concert, and Coash asked if Nugent would help him out with a fundraiser.

Coash said raising funds is much easier as an incumbent because he has a voting record now. In 2008 Coash said he had difficulty raising money, but he made up for it by working hard.

Candidates’ abortion stances

Coash said he’s proud of his record, which includes an overhaul of guardianship laws, balancing the budget, making education a priority and anti-abortion legislation.

For Coash, life begins at conception.

“It’s a baby the whole time,” he said.

His Roman Catholic faith informs this view. He cares deeply about children and works at Developmental Services of Nebraska, a not-for-profit agency that helps disabled people become independent.

Michaelis’ faith plays into his views about abortion as well, although he disagrees with anti-abortion legislation. He said the “fetal pain” 20-week restriction is especially troubling. He agrees with Roe v. Wade and says women should have control over these choices.

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