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Former journalist, filmmaker files for Nelson's Senate seatTell North Platte what you think
Courtesy Photo­Image
Steven Lustgarten

Steven Lustgarten has stepped forward as a Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate.

Acknowledging the difficulty a Democrat will have in staunchly Republican Nebraska, Lustgarten said Nebraskans are free thinkers and independent.

Lustgarten filed on Jan. 23.

“I'm a very conservative Democrat,” he said in his announcement. “I'm not going to Washington to spar with others, but to work together and get things done that this country desperately needs. I think Americans are tired of these childish games that shut down the government and threaten critical programs, and cause our credit rating to fall from triple A for the first time in our history. Besides, Democrats today are more like Reagan Republicans, than the Republicans are. They've gone completely off the track and are controlled by the extreme right wing of the party, which is no more than a Taliban in ties.”

Campaigning on a platform that would reduce the use of anonymous spending by corporations who are now considered “persons”, in elections and taking the big money out of campaigns for office.

“Do we really want more multi millionaires with their hands out going to Washington as our representatives?” Lustgarten asked.

Closing the revolving door between lobbying and Congress should be a priority, he maintains.

“There are over 1,500 lobbyists in D.C just for the financial industry. No wonder the banks got a huge bailout and the taxpayers got the bill,” he said.

Lustgarten suggests that breaking the gridlock in Congress that has paralyzed the country at a critical juncture in history is essential and it requires some give and take on both sides of the equation.

The bid for a Senate seat is Lustgarten's first attempt at public office. He hopes to address are campaign finance reform, undoing the Washington gridlock between the parties, greater oversight of the financial industry and revisiting the Gramm-Leach-Briley bill voted into law in 1999 that led to the 2008 financial meltdown after repealing provisions of the Glass-Steagal act that separated banks and brokers.


Lustgarten, 60, is from Omaha. He was born in Green Bay, Wisc. and moved to Omaha in 1954 where he lived in the Dundee area. He graduated from Omaha Burke High School in 1969 and attended Wayne State College and the University of Nebraska at Omaha, as well as outstate schools Arizona State University and Portland State University in Oregon.

Studying English, creative writing and communications, he won an Academy Award for his student feature length film in 1983, besting Spike Lee who was runner up.

The candidate began his media career as a reporter/photographer at the Alliance Times Herald in Alliance in 1973 and was one of the first reporters to gain entry to the hamlet of Wounded Knee, S.D. after it was secured by members of the American Indian Movement.

Lustgarten also worked for Dick Holland at the advertising agency, Holland, Dreves, and Reilly as a writer-producer.

After winning the Academy Award in 1983, Lustgarten moved to Los Angeles where he was represented by the prestigious APA Agency and began working as a screenwriter, successfully optioning his first script to MGM.

The second feature film he directed was shot in the Omaha area with local actors and crew with much of the action taking place in Plattsmouth. The movie, Power Slide, was released in the U.S. on home video and has played on television throughout the world, he said.

In 1991, Lustgarten established an independent film and video distribution company, LEO FILMS, that released Sundance films, as well as genre oriented product that was sold to Blockbuster Video and Hollywood Video. The company has released over 80 independent feature films.

Lustgarten has been a resident of Omaha, Nebraska since 2008 and has established a local video production company, Omaha Video Productions, which is involved in the production of television commercials, web promos, and feature films.

Big things on horizon

Regarding pledges to “not cut taxes”, Lustgarten said, “The reason we send people to Washington is to make the hard choices on spending, not just make a blind pledge without regard to the circumstances. If people are so eager to pledge, why don't they pledge to the United States of America instead of Grover Norquist?”

Lustgarten believes the residual value of American creativity and entrepreneurship can usher in a brave new era of new jobs, advances in medicine, alternative energy, and green living. He called for “a new vision of labor that is more rooted in the jobs of the future, in technology, which will require higher education standards for the country.”

“Newt Gingrich's idea of a colony on the moon is not only absurd, it's also very 1950s Buck Rogers territory. If you want to dream big, how about decoding our DNA structure and extending our life expectancy to 110-120 years. There are some truly great breakthroughs just over the horizon and if we don't start pulling together we're gonna blow it.”

Lustgarten hopes to make a tour of Nebraska to meet with supporters, doubters, and media and to learn more about what it is that the people of the State feel they need from Washington.

“Ultimately, it's not about what I want or believe in, but it's what the people want,” he said. “Government derives its power from the people. Sometimes we forget that key part of the Constitution of the United States.”

People can follow Lustgarten's campaign at Facebook by searching “Steven Lustgarten for Senate” or at his blog at http://lustgarten4senate.wordpress.com/ and soon at SteveLustgarten.com

“These primary and general elections for Nebraska's senate seat will have a profound effect on the control of Congress and the direction of the country in the next decade,” Lustgarten said. “I encourage everyone to get registered and to vote in the primary and the general elections in the fall.”

In the primary, only registered Republicans or Democrats can vote on candidates. Non-partisans can re-register with a party to allow them to vote in the election.

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The North Platte Bulletin - Published 2/5/2012
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