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Matt Williams (Nebraska politician)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Matt Williams
Member of the Nebraska Legislature
from the 36th district
Assumed office
Preceded byJohn Wightman
Personal details
Born (1949-02-05) February 5, 1949 (age 72)
Political partyRepublican
ResidenceGothenburg, Nebraska

Matthew H. ("Matt") Williams (born February 5, 1949) 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 south central part of the state. Williams is a member of the Republican Party.

Personal life and professional career

Williams was born on February 5, 1949, in Gothenburg, Nebraska. His great-grandfather, Henry L. Williams, had settled in the Gothenburg area in the early 1890s, where he farmed and ranched before founding the Gothenburg State Bank in 1902. Williams's grandfather and then his father served as the bank's presidents.[1][2][3]

Williams worked on the family farm in his youth. He graduated from Gothenburg High School in 1967, then attended the University of Nebraska–Lincoln, receiving a degree in business administration in 1971. In 1969, he married nursing student Susan Kay Wright; the couple eventually produced two children. Intending to become a lawyer rather than to carry on the family's farming or banking operations, he attended the University of Nebraska College of Law.[1][2][4]

In 1973, however, his father unexpectedly died, and responsibility for the family bank devolved upon Williams. He joined the bank as vice-president, commuted between Gothenburg and Lincoln until he completed his law degree in 1974, then moved to Gothenburg. In 1979, he assumed the presidency of the bank.[1][2]

1980s farm crisis

In the early- and mid-1970s, farm prices were high and interest rates low. Many farmers took out extensive loans to acquire more land and the equipment necessary to farm the additional acres; land prices rose sharply. In the late 1970s and 1980s, however, conditions for farmers turned unfavorable. A worldwide economic decline reduced overall demand for farm products. Following the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979, U.S. president Jimmy Carter imposed an embargo on the shipment of farm products to the Soviet Union, eliminating that market. As farm income and land prices fell while interest rates rose, it became more difficult for farmers to service existing loans or to obtain new ones. A wave of foreclosures on farm loans ensued; and through the 1980s, Nebraska suffered a high incidence of bank failures.[5]

To keep the Gothenburg bank alive, Williams was forced to sell part of the family farm.[6] The bank attempted to give farmers as much flexibility as possible in managing their loans, and over the course of the farm crisis, only two of their farm customers declared bankruptcy.[4] During and after the crisis, Williams and other residents aggressively recruited industries; eventually, four Fortune 500 companies set up operations in the Gothenburg area.[2][4][7]

Williams served as chair of the Nebraska Bankers Association in 2003–04. In 2008, he joined the board of the American Bankers Association; in 2012–2013, he chaired the organization.[1][8]

Political career

2014 election

In September 2013, Williams stated that he was considering running either for the Nebraska governorship or for an open seat in the Nebraska Legislature.[9] In late October, he announced that he would seek the legislative seat representing District 36, consisting of Dawson, Custer, and the northern third of Buffalo Counties, and including the cities of Gothenburg, Lexington, Cozad, and Broken Bow.[10][11] Under Nebraska's term-limits law, the incumbent, John Wightman, a Republican from Lexington, was ineligible to run for a third consecutive term.[12][13]

Williams, a Republican, faced a single opponent in the contest. Luis Sotelo, a Lexington Democrat, was a college-planning specialist working for EducationQuest, a Lincoln-based nonprofit established to improve access to post-secondary education in Nebraska. A native of Chihuahua in northern Mexico, Sotelo had been brought to the United States by his parents at the age of five. He had graduated from Lexington High School in 2007 and from Northwestern University in 2011, then taught school in Kansas City with the Teach For America organization.[14][15][16][17][18]

In the course of the campaign, Williams declared that the two most critical current issues in Nebraska were water policy, which he described as unsustainable, and the state's tax structure, which he said handicapped attempts to recruit businesses; he stated that his background in business and in agriculture and his "proven leadership skills" were what the voters wanted and needed.[19] Sotelo asserted that education, particularly in early childhood, was a critical issue,[19] and said that the legislature needed members who would represent Latinos, Africans, and the middle class, "not just upper-class whites".[20]

When the nonpartisan primary election was held in May 2014, Williams received 6348 of the 7368 votes cast, or 86.2% of the total. Sotelo received 1020 votes, or 13.8%.[21] Since there were only two candidates running, both moved on to the general election.[22]

Over the entire course of the campaign, Williams collected over $110,000 in contributions, and spent over $91,000.[23] The Sotelo campaign collected over $37,000, and spent over $34,000.[24] Major contributors to Williams's campaign included the Nebraska Realtors PAC, which gave $7000; the Nebraska Bankers State PAC, with contributions of over $4000; and the Nebraska Telecommunications Association, which yielded $4000. The Gothenburg State Bank contributed about $2600; several other banks and the Nebraska Independent Community Bankers PAC made up over $2600 in contributions.[23] Sotelo's single largest contributor was Leadership for Educational Equity, which provided $7750;[24] the group describes itself as "a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization dedicated to empowering Teach For America corps members and alumni to grow as leaders in their communities and help build the movement for educational equity".[25] Sotelo also received $1750 from the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers, and $1470 from the Nebraska Democratic Party.[24] The Nebraska State Education Association contributed $1350 to each campaign.[23][24]

In the November 2014 general election, Williams received 7599 of the 9747 votes cast, or 78% of the total. Sotelo received 2148 votes, or 22%.[26]

Legislative tenure

2015 session

In the 2015 legislative session, Williams was named vice-chair of Banking, Commerce, and Insurance Committee; he was also appointed to the Judiciary Committee.[27]

Among the "most significant"[28] 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.[28][29][30] Williams voted in favor of the death-penalty repeal, and to override Ricketts's veto of the measure;[31] he voted for passage of LB623, and to override the gubernatorial veto;[32] and he voted for passage of the gas-tax increase, and to override the veto.[33]

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".[34][35] Williams voted for the bill in its 29–15 passage.[36] Sponsor John Murante opted not to seek an override of the governor's veto.[37]

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; Williams was among those voting in favor. 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.[34][38]

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. Williams voted for the bill, and for the override of Ricketts's veto.[39][40]

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, Williams was among those who voted in favor of the bill.[41][42]


  1. ^ a b c d "Sen. Matt Williams—Biography". Nebraska Legislature. Retrieved June 2, 2015. Archived April 24, 2015, at Wayback Machine.
  2. ^ a b c d Flott, Anthony. "Alumni Success Story: Matt Williams, '71, 74". Archived June 2, 2015, at the Wayback Machine Nebraska Alumni Association. Retrieved June 2, 2015.Archived June 2, 2015, at Wayback Machine.
  3. ^ "Testimony of Matthew H. Williams on behalf of the American Bankers Association before the Subcommittee on Department Operations, Oversight, and Credit of the House Committee on Agriculture, United States House of Representatives". American Bankers Association. April 14, 2011. Retrieved June 2, 2015.
  4. ^ a b c Streeter, Bill. "Ready for the leadership ride: Nebraska community banker is up for the challenges of leading the industry. And he'll have plenty." ABA Banking Journal Oct. 2012: 28+. Academic OneFile. Web. Retrieved June 2, 2015.
  5. ^ "Crisis in Agriculture". Retrieved June 2, 2015.
  6. ^ Barrett, Elizabeth. "Dawson County candidates offered chance to talk about selves". Gothenburg Times. April 17, 2014. Retrieved June 2, 2015.
  7. ^ "Nebraska Banker Matt Williams To Receive Top Ag Banking Award". American Bankers Association, press release May 9, 2014. Retrieved June 2, 2015. Archived June 2, 2015, at Wayback Machine.
  8. ^ Barrett, Elizabeth. "Small-town banker leads American Bankers Association". Gothenburg Times. October 26, 2012. Retrieved June 2, 2015.
  9. ^ "Nebraska Governor's Race Quickly Taking Shape". 10/11 HD. September 9, 2013. Retrieved June 2, 2015.
  10. ^ Konz, Mike. "Williams wins District 36 seat". Kearney Hub. November 4, 2014. Retrieved June 3, 2015.
  11. ^ "Legislative District 36 - LB703 (2011)". Nebraska Legislature. Retrieved June 2, 2015.
  12. ^ Barrett, Elizabeth. "Matt Williams to run for legislative seat". Gothenburg Times. November 1, 2013. Retrieved June 2, 2015.
  13. ^ "Wightman pleased with bi-partisan immigration reform vote". Lexington Clipper-Herald. April 16, 2014. Retrieved June 2, 2015.
  14. ^ "2014 Candidate Guidebook", p. 17. Nebraska Rural Electric Association. Retrieved June 2, 2015.
  15. ^ "About EducationQuest". EducationQuest Foundation. Retrieved June 3, 2015.
  16. ^ Young, Joanne. "The one, still only, Hispanic member of state Legislature: Ray Aguilar". Lincoln Journal Star. November 17, 2014. Retrieved June 3, 2015.
  17. ^ Ward, Malena. "Sotelo says 36th District run puts state first". Kearney Hub. February 18, 2014. Retrieved June 3, 2015.
  18. ^ Ward, Malena. "Lexington’s Miss Voz Latina program is 2011 Freedom Award winner in education". Kearney Hub. March 21, 2011. Retrieved June 3, 2015.
  19. ^ a b Zelaya, Kevin. "Two-man race for Unicameral". Lexington Clipper-Herald. April 14, 2014. Retrieved June 3, 2015.
  20. ^ Miraval, Francisco. "Joven educador hispano de Nebraska busca una banca en el Senado estatal". Fox News Latino. March 11, 2014. Retrieved June 3, 2015. Article in Spanish; the relevant quotation is "se necesita a alguien en la Legislatura unicameral de Nebraska con una nueva dinámica que represente todas las voces de la comunidad, incluyendo a los latinos, a los africanos y a la clase media, y no sólo a los blancos de clase alta."
  21. ^ "Official Report of the Board of State Canvassers of the State of Nebraska: Primary Election, May 13, 2014", p. 36. Nebraska Secretary of State. Retrieved June 4, 2015.
  22. ^ "2014 primary election results". Lexington Clipper-Herald. May 14, 2014. Retrieved June 4, 2015.
  23. ^ a b c "Matt Williams for Legislature, Inc.", general statement 10/21/2014–12/31/2014. Nebraska Accountability and Disclosure Commission. Retrieved June 4, 2015. See "Financial Summary" tab for overall numbers; "Schedule A" for contributions by individuals; "Schedule B" for contributions by businesses and organizations.
  24. ^ a b c d "Sotelo for Legislature", general statement 10/21/2014–12/31/2014. Nebraska Accountability and Disclosure Commission. Retrieved June 4, 2015. See "Financial Summary" tab for overall numbers; "Schedule A" for contributions by individuals; "Schedule B" for contributions by businesses and organizations.
  25. ^ "Who We Are". Archived March 16, 2015, at the Wayback Machine Leadership for Educational Equity. Retrieved June 4, 2015. Archived March 16, 2015, at Wayback Machine.
  26. ^ "Official Report of the Board of State Canvassers of the State of Nebraska: General Election, November 4, 2014" Archived January 8, 2015, at the Wayback Machine, p. 21. Nebraska Secretary of State. Retrieved June 4, 2015.
  27. ^ "2015 Legislative Committees". Nebraska Legislature. Retrieved June 2, 2015.
  28. ^ a b Knapp, Fred. "2015 Legislature Leaves Its Mark On Nebraska". NET (Nebraska public radio and television). June 3, 2015. Retrieved June 4, 2015.
  29. ^ Walton, Don. "Senators override Ricketts' veto of Dreamers licenses". Lincoln Journal Star. May 28, 2015. Retrieved June 4, 2015.
  30. ^ Pluhacek, Zach. "Gas tax hike gets Nebraska lawmakers' OK, governor's veto". Lincoln Journal Star. May 7, 2015. Retrieved June 4, 2015.
  31. ^ "Legislative Journal, One Hundred Fourth Legislature, First Session". Nebraska Legislature. Vote on final reading of LB268 is at pp. 1738–39; override of veto is at pp. 1896–98.
  32. ^ "Legislative Journal, One Hundred Fourth Legislature, First Session". Nebraska Legislature. Vote on final reading of LB623 is at pp. 1791–92; override of veto is at pp. 1930–32.
  33. ^ "Legislative Journal, One Hundred Fourth Legislature, First Session". Nebraska Legislature. Vote on final reading of LB610 is at p. 1500; override of veto is at p. 1623.
  34. ^ a b Matheny, Ryan. "Nebraska legislators wrap up 2016 session". KMA. April 25, 2016. Retrieved April 29, 2016.
  35. ^ Nohr, Emily. "'Unconstitutional, unelected and unaccountable': Ricketts vetoes bill to revamp how political maps are drawn". Omaha World-Herald. April 18, 2016. Retrieved April 29, 2016.
  36. ^ "Legislative Journal: Carryover Legislation". p. 1622. Retrieved April 29, 2016.
  37. ^ "Independent redistricting commission vetoed, no override attempt offered". Unicameral Update. April 19, 2016. Retrieved April 29, 2016.
  38. ^ "Legislative Journal: Carryover Legislation". pp. 1579–80. Retrieved April 29, 2016.
  39. ^ Duggan, Joe. "Legislature to vote on overriding veto on bill that would allow work licenses for those brought to U.S. illegally as kids". Omaha World-Herald. April 19, 2016. Retrieved April 29, 2016.
  40. ^ "Legislative Journal: Carryover Legislation". Passage of LB947 is on p. 1614; the veto override is on pp. 1637–38. Retrieved April 29, 2016.
  41. ^ Stoddard, Martha. "Bill to return Nebraska to winner-take-all Electoral College method comes up short". Omaha World-Herald. April 13, 2016. Retrieved April 29, 2016.
  42. ^ "Legislative Journal: Carryover Legislation". p. 1591. Retrieved April 29, 2016.

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