Two candidates for Bellevue district say faith shapes their positions
October 15, 2020
Rick Holdcroft is parish council president at St. Matthew Parish in Bellevue, a fourth-degree Knight of Columbus and the state organization’s Knight of the Year for 2019.
Carol Blood, an adult convert to the faith, has been involved with Catholic Daughters of America and was a lector at her parish, St. Mary in Bellevue, until a recent illness caused her to step aside.
The two Catholic candidates vying for Bellevue’s District 3 seat in the state Legislature both say their faith strongly shapes their actions and views.
But their positions on many issues vary widely.
Blood, a Democrat, and Holdcroft, a Republican, both consider themselves pro-life.
Holdcroft said he believes life begins at conception and that every baby is a unique person with his or her own DNA. He said he is “totally against” abortion and would work to eliminate it.
Blood, the incumbent who unseated former state Sen. Tommy Garrett for the District 3 seat in 2016, has supported several pro-life measures during her four years in office. Those included a bill to require abortion providers to tell patients how to reverse the abortion drug mifepristone, and a provision that created a “choose life” license plate.
But she caused consternation among Catholic leaders when she voted in 2017 to eliminate language from a budget proposal that would have steered federal funding away from abortion clinics toward more comprehensive health care centers. And earlier this year, she abstained from a final vote on a measure to ban a second-trimester method of abortion known as “dismemberment abortion.”
Blood said she didn’t vote for the dismemberment abortion ban because it was poorly written, arguing that another equally horrific type of abortion would be used in its place. She also said she objected to a provision that allows women to file a civil suit against abortionists using the dismemberment procedure, saying the provision did not allow lawsuit options for unmarried fathers and others.
“I prayed on this for months” and she turned to her catechism for help, Blood said in a recent telephone interview. She said she believes that all human life is sacred, but she also had a moral obligation to the truth, that the law would not stop unborn babies being torn apart by another equally gruesome method.
Tom Venzor, executive director of the Nebraska Catholic Conference (NCC), wrote about the ban on dismemberment abortion after it was signed into law, calling Blood’s lack of support during the final vote “tragic.”
Blood’s withdrawal of support during the final vote would have killed the bill, but another senator who had been absent from debate showed up just in time to provide a critical 33rd vote.
“As a Catholic, I can’t support the death penalty,” Blood said.
Recent popes and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops have called for an end to the death penalty, calling it unneccessary and cruel.
Holdcroft said the death penalty issue “is a hard one for me.”
“I am personally opposed to the death penalty, but the state has voted pretty soundly to legalize the death penalty,” he said in a telephone interview. “So I will support the governor in carrying out the death penalty in the most humane way we can.”
Both candidates have had children attend Catholic schools.
Holdcroft said he favors school choice measures that would allow students from low-income families to attend parochial schools.
“I’m a strong supporter of education,” Holdcroft said.
His wife, Mary Jo, has been an educator for more than 30 years and teaches math and science to sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders at St. Matthew School.
Holdcroft also serves on the Archbishop’s Committee for Development, with a seat on an education subcommittee.
“So I do have a vested interest in education,” he said.
Holdcroft said he would support school choice measures, such as a scholarship program that would incentivize donations to scholarship funds, or tax relief efforts for families with children enrolled in private schools.
“I think it’s important that people have the opportunity to have a parochial, a faith-based education. … But obviously not everyone can afford a private school.”
“Nebraska has great (public) schools, and we need to fully fund them,” Holdcroft said, “but we do need to offer school choice.”
In recent years, the NCC has pushed for a tax credit for donations to nonprofit scholarship-granting organizations that would award scholarships to elementary and high school students from low-income and working-class families.
Blood said she hasn’t seen any school choice bills she would support. Recent proposals haven’t been fiscally sustainable or didn’t help people struggling the most, she said.
“I would love to see something sustainable and that would not take money from public schools,” Blood said.
The question of whether she supports school choice is “not a yes or no question,” she said. “I’m not seeing any responsible bills.”
Both candidates said they would like to lower property taxes, but they have different views on how to do that.
“Our property taxes are just too high in comparison to the states around us, in comparison to the nation,” Holdcroft said. “I’m concerned about, in particular, elderly folks who should be feeling comfortable in their homes that they’ve purchased, but now they find themselves in a position where the valuation of their homes is increasing and they can’t afford to pay their property taxes. So they’re in danger of losing their houses.”
He said he’s considering ways to rebalance Nebraska’s property, income and sales taxes. And he’s leaning toward a sales or consumption tax that could eliminate property and income taxes – and could even apply to food purchases.
“With a consumption tax, you have some choice on what you purchase,” Holdcroft said. He said that even people who are struggling to put “food on the table could keep their taxes down with smart buying.”
Blood said a consumption tax would be hard on low-income families.
“You have to eat to survive,” she said, and a consumption tax would be more of a burden on the poor.
There are ways to control property taxes, Blood said, including “circuit breaker” relief, which targets those disproportionately affected by property taxes. The relief could include homestead exemptions – which Nebraska currently offers for the elderly, disabled and veterans – and exempts all or a portion of the taxable value of a residence.
Circuit breaker relief could go into effect when property values “go way up and incomes go down,” leveling out taxes so the worst impacted “get a fair deal.”
Property tax relief also could be based on financial need or even offered to renters, who pay a “secondary tax” through higher rent, Blood said.
GAY RIGHTS VS. RELIGIOUS LIBERTY
“As a Catholic, I was taught that human rights are paramount,” Blood said.
Measures that ban discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity aren’t special protections, she said. And she supports those efforts, saying religious liberty won’t be affected.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church does not allow for mistreatment of people based on gender identity or same-sex attraction.
“They must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity,” the catechism says. “Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided” (no. 2358).
The NCC points that out, but also warns that certain measures could be used to trample religious rights. The measures go beyond protection from unjust discrimination to force employers, adoption agencies and religious organizations and others to affirm same-sex attraction and sexual conduct they find immoral, the NCC has said.
Holdcroft echoed those views.
“First of all, I am a believer that a marriage should be between a man and a woman, and I will do everything to protect the family,” he said, “the example given to us by the Holy Family.”
“But having said that, we should love everyone, no matter their gender preference” or sexual identity, Holdcroft said.
He said no new laws are needed to protect people with same-sex attraction or who identify as transgender. “I think there are enough laws in place.”
ABOUT THE CANDIDATES
Blood, 59, is a self-employed business consultant and former director of the La Vista Chamber of Commerce. Before being elected to the Legislature in 2016, she was a Bellevue City Council member for eight years. She has been married to her husband, Joe, for 33 years. They have three children and 10 grandchildren. Earlier this year, a virus caused Blood to be hospitalized with heart failure. “It could have been so much worse,” she said, but “I’m above ground and God is good.”
Holdcroft, 66, served in the U.S. Navy for 28 years, retiring as a captain. He worked for an aerospace company, the former Orbital ATK Inc., retiring after 11 years in 2016. He has been married to his wife, Mary Jo for 44 years and has five children and nine grandchildren. Four of his five children have followed his lead, serving in the Navy as commissioned officers. Holdcroft was campaign chairman for St. Matthew’s new church, co-chaired its building committee and represented St. Matthew Parish with the construction contractor.