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The basics
Quick Facts
Gender male
Birth 5 June 1956
Star sign GeminiGemini
The details

Dan Hughes (born June 5, 1956) is a politician from the state of Nebraska in the Midwestern United States. In 2014, he was elected to the Nebraska Legislature, representing a district in the southwestern part of the state. Hughes is a member of the Republican Party.

Early life and career

Hughes was born on June 5, 1956, in Imperial, Nebraska, to a family of farmers. He graduated from high school in Venango, Nebraska, in 1974. In 1976, he received an associate degree in agriculture from Northeastern Junior College in Sterling, Colorado. In 1977, he married Jessie Hahn; the couple eventually produced two children.

After receiving his degree, Hughes joined his family's wheat-farming operation in southwestern Nebraska. As of 2011, they farmed about 11,000 acres (4,500 ha).

From 1993 to 1999, Hughes served on the Nebraska Ethanol Board, a state agency created to promote development of the ethanol industry. From 2006 to 2014, he served on the Nebraska Wheat Board, a state agency tasked with promoting the domestic and foreign consumption of wheat and wheat products. In 2012 and 2013, he served as chair of U.S. Wheat Associates, a national organization that promotes export sales of U.S. wheat.

From 1998 to 2010, Hughes was a member of the school board for the city of Grant, Nebraska and, following consolidation, Perkins County.

Nebraska legislature

2014 election

In August 2013, Hughes announced that he would seek a seat in the Nebraska Legislature representing the 44th District. The district consisted of ten counties in the southwestern portion of the state—Chase, Dundy, Frontier, Furnas, Gosper, Harlan, Hayes, Hitchcock, Perkins, and Red Willow counties—and included the cities of McCook, Imperial, and Alma. Under Nebraska's term-limits law, the incumbent, Mark Christensen, was ineligible to run for a third consecutive term.

2014 primary

Hughes was one of three candidates for the position; all three were members of the Republican Party. Dennis Berry was the mayor of McCook, a position that he had held for ten years; he was about to retire as principal of McCook Junior High. Steve Stroup was a farmer from Benkelman, and operated a small medical-coding business.

The three candidates agreed that water, which the McCook Gazette called "arguably the hottest topic in Southwest Nebraska", and property taxes were among the most salient issues for the 44th District. The candidates emphasized their backgrounds rather than the differences in their political positions. Berry noted his experience as mayor, and said that his background in education would help him in addressing what he suggested was insufficient state funding for schools; he noted that he had grown up doing agricultural work in the Nebraska Panhandle, and said that he had sufficient knowledge of agriculture to represent the district effectively. Hughes called attention to his career as a farmer, and stated that his experience on the school board and in various commodity organizations had given him communication and relationship-building skills that would be useful in the legislature. Stroup also emphasized his farming background, and argued that his experience operating a business would make him an effective legislator.

As of two weeks before the May 13 primary, Hughes had raised the most money for his campaign, with receipts of $29,000. Berry had raised nearly $16,000 by that date, and Stroup almost $7,000.

When the nonpartisan primary election was held, Hughes won a plurality, with 3559 votes, or 40.0% of the total. Stroup came in second, with 3145 votes, or 35.3%; Berry received 2199 votes, or 24.7%. As the top two vote-getters, Hughes and Stroup moved on to the general election.

2014 general election

As in the primary election, Hughes and Stroup campaigned largely on their experience and personal qualities rather than on their political differences. Both candidates opposed a proposed increase in the state's minimum wage; both supported the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline through Nebraska; both opposed the proposed expansion of Medicaid under the provisions of the 2010 Affordable Care Act; both opposed the abolition of capital punishment; and both believed that illegal immigration was a problem in Nebraska.

The candidates agreed that property taxes on farms needed to be reduced. Hughes proposed a sales tax on food as a means of making up the revenue lost thereby; Stroup proposed a "transaction tax" which, unlike a property tax, would not have to be paid in years in which a farmer's crop was lost to hail or other disaster. The two also differed on how to fund maintenance and construction of roads and bridges: Stroup supported an increase in the state's fuel tax; Hughes favored policies that he said would lead to economic growth, which in turn would produce higher sales- and income-tax revenues.

Hughes maintained that his twelve years of school-board experience had left him with leadership qualities that would make him a more effective legislator. Stroup cited his 35 years of farming, ranching, and business experience, and declared that he was willing to consider issues on their merits rather than basing his votes chiefly on party positions.

Over the course of the entire campaign, Hughes received contributions of about $70,000, loaned his campaign an additional $17,000, and spent $102,000. Stroup received contributions of $59,000, loaned his campaign $6,100, and spent $67,000. Hughes's receipts included $2,500 from Republican gubernatorial candidate Pete Ricketts; Stroup received $5,800 from WaterClaim, a group of irrigators in the Republican River basin, and $2,000 from Nebraska Colorado Cellular, doing business as Viaero Wireless. Several major contributors provided money to both candidates, among them the Nebraska Realtors PAC, which gave $3,000 to Hughes and $2,500 to Stroup; the Nebraska Bankers PAC, which gave $2,600 to Hughes and $1,000 to Stroup; and the AGC Highway Improvement PAC, which gave Hughes $2,000 and Stroup $500.

When the general election was held, Hughes won 6,924 votes, or 57% of the total; Stroup received 5,189 votes, or 43%.

Legislative tenure

2015 session

In the 2015 legislative session, Hughes was assigned to the Natural Resources Committee and the Urban Affairs Committee.

Among the "most significant" actions taken by the Legislature in its 2015 session were three bills that passed over vetoes by governor Pete Ricketts. LB268 repealed the state's death penalty; LB623 reversed the state's previous policy of denying driver's licenses to people who were living illegally in the United States after being brought to the country as children, and who had been granted exemption from deportation under the Barack Obama administration's Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program; and LB610 increased the tax on gasoline to pay for repairs to roads and bridges. Hughes voted against the death-penalty repeal, and to sustain Ricketts's veto of the measure; he voted for passage of LB623, and to override the gubernatorial veto; and he voted for passage of the gas-tax increase, and to override the veto.

2016 session

In its 2016 session, the Nebraska legislature passed three bills that Ricketts then vetoed. LB580 would have created an independent commission of citizens to draw new district maps following censuses; supporters described it as an attempt to de-politicize the redistricting process, while Ricketts maintained that the bill delegated the legislature's constitutional duty of redistricting to "an unelected and unaccountable board". Hughes voted against the bill in its 29–15 passage. Sponsor John Murante opted not to seek an override of the governor's veto.

A second vetoed bill, LB935, would have changed state audit procedures. The bill passed by a margin of 37–8, with 4 present and not voting; Hughes was among those voting for it. The bill was withdrawn without an attempt to override the veto; the state auditor agreed to work with the governor on a new version for the next year's session.

A third bill passed over Ricketts's veto. LB947 made DACA beneficiaries eligible for commercial and professional licenses in Nebraska. The bill passed the Legislature on a vote of 33–11–5; the veto override passed 31–13–5. Hughes voted for the bill at its initial passage; he was recorded as present and not voting in the vote to override Ricketts's veto.

The legislature failed to pass LB10, greatly desired by the Republican Party, which would have restored Nebraska to a winner-take-all scheme of allocating its electoral votes in U.S. presidential elections, rather than continuing its practice of awarding the electoral vote for each congressional district to the candidate who received the most votes in that district. Supporters were unable to break a filibuster; in the 32–17 cloture motion, Hughes was among those who voted for the bill.

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