In 2005, Judy Domina received a panicked call from her daughter. She needed to get her boys away from her husband who was abusing them. Judy drove without stopping to Iowa. She picked up her grandsons and brought them back to her home in Scotia. They had been severely abused, but Judy had taught children with special needs and had worked as an advocate for children and families; the boys couldn’t have had a better champion than a loving grandmother who knew the ins and outs of Nebraska’s health and human services. Still, Judy ran into roadblocks—and was shocked that even she was unable to navigate the system without help. She worried about her grandsons, but she also began to think of others: “If I can’t get services for these children, what is happening to the families who don’t know who to call or how to go about accessing these services?”
Photo by: Mary Anne Andrei. Judy Domina outside the new Elkhorn Valley View Middle School near her home. A supporter of the Dream Act, Judy sees education—for everyone—as critical to the state’s future.
We sat drinking coffee in Judy’s kitchen, as she remembered it all. She seemed lost for a moment in the memory then shook her head. “I see myself as the candidate for the vulnerable,” she said finally. “I believe that in a nation as wonderful as the United States we need to make sure all of our citizens are taken care of.” This philosophy, she said, grew from her upbringing on a small farm in Oconto in Custer County. “In rural communities,” she explained, “if somebody has difficulty the neighbors wrap their arms around them, and come in and harvest their crops or make sure they have food.” That sense of communal effort—of pulling together for the common good—is something that Judy sees as a core value in Nebraska. And she believes that, even as more and more Nebraskans move to cities, she can help farmers and ranchers find shared purpose with their urban neighbors.
That’s why Judy was shocked to see the behavior of her opponent Beau McCoy at a hearing before the Natural Resources Committee during last November’s special session on the Keystone XL pipeline. Many in the room felt that McCoy’s treatment of Robert Bernt, a Sandhills rancher who makes organic products in Spalding, crossed the line—ridiculing Bernt for erring on a matter of procedure, rather than listening to the substance of his testimony, to the point that Bernt eventually apologized for his “lower intelligence.” This is exactly the kind of excluding of constituent voices Judy would not tolerate. “No matter what my own personal opinions are,” she said, “I’m always going to be open to listening. I will work with my constituents to look at the facts together.”
In the case of Keystone XL, Judy said, that means insisting on an honest number for potential jobs created by the project and realistic projections about the integrity of the pipe. She knows firsthand that TransCanada’s claims about the boost the pipeline would give Nebraska’s economy is a gross exaggeration. Judy remembers when TransCanada built the original Keystone pipeline and how it generated plenty of temporary construction jobs. She even benefitted from the brief boost. “I had an apartment house that I rented to workers where previously it was vacant. But they were not Nebraskans,” she said. “So yes, they were renting houses and spending money at our businesses while they were in the area—but, once the pipeline was laid, they left.”
Her farming background also makes Judy pause when she hears TransCanada’s assurances about the infallibility of their system. “I’ve never in all of the time I was farming had a piece of equipment that in some way did not fail,” she said. “The pipeline will eventually fail.” Judy believes that short-term economic gains are not worth the risk to our most valuable resource—our water. “I grew up on the edge of the Sandhills. I have friends and family who live there. I know how fragile the Sandhills are, and I know how important our water is to us.” As a former business owner, Judy understands how appealing the economic incentives promised by TransCanada can be to small communities. But she sees an alternative path to long-term stability: providing tax incentives and low-interest loans for developing alternative energy—and not just for giant energy corporations.
Judy owned and operated a flower shop and a bookstore at a shopping center in Norfolk for 25 years. When the city offered tax breaks to lure Walmart and Shopko, they could price to undercut local business owners. “Our little shopping center went from being 80 percent mom-and-pop shops down to only two family-owned businesses,” she said. To diversify any industry, she would advocate for a healthy mix of big corporations, with their deep pockets and broad resources, with smaller, more entrepreneurial, locally-owned companies. To achieve this balance, Judy would offer tax incentives and low interest loans to Nebraska-based innovators and provide mentorship training to help them turn their ideas in positive change for the state. “We have difficulty keeping our bright young people in this state,” she said. “I want to give them opportunities and encourage them to stay.”
Learn More and Volunteer:
To learn more about Judy Domina or to volunteer for her campaign serve District 39’s State Senator in the Unicam, a position that will influence where Nebraska is heading on energy and other critical issues, visit Judy’s website at www.judydomina.com. You can also find Judy on Facebook.
Folks call the Unicam different names–State Legislature, Unicameral and State Senate. In Nebraska, we are unique and have one legislative body and it is non-partisan. We are the only state in the country to have our legislative branch of government under one “house” that does not organize by party. When a person is elected to serve in the Unicam, they are called a State Senator or State Legislator.
Judy’s profile is part of a series to highlight candidates who embody “new energy.” Candidates who bring new energy, new faces or who are running on a platform of homegrown, sustainable energy deserve more focus and attention. These profiles will also be featured on the New Energy Voter website which will give Nebraskans a “voter guide” you can email to your friends. The New Energy Voter site helps you register online using the Rock the Vote tool and has a voter guide on candidates up and down the ballot. If you are on Twitter, make sure to use these tags #nevoter #nebpol and of course follow @boldnebraska.