Civic Engagement Nebraska Politics

Changing Democracy One Conversation at a Time: An Interview with Morgann Freeman

After hearing her speak at Red State, I caught up with candidate for Nebraska’s 2nd Congressional District, Morgann Freeman, at Crescent Moon in Lincoln, to chat about her campaign.

Morgann Freeman, Candidate for Nebraska’s 2nd Congressional District

From community organizer to candidate

I asked Morgann about her experience as a community organizer and activist. She told me she’s been actively involved in her community her whole life. Morgann said she organized her first community event, a bazaar fundraiser at her local church, at the age of 11. As she got older and became more aware of the social challenges faced by the people in her community including her family, friends, and neighbors, Morgann said she realized you can’t necessarily rely on somebody else to do things and that everyone has a personal stake in the community. But the real catalyst for her was the murder of Michael Brown in 2014. She said, “the week after Michael Brown’s murder my life just completely changed. I had about 80 people that stopped by my desk [at work] that week to ask me what I thought about Michael Brown’s murder on behalf of all black people. And after that point, I didn’t feel like I had the luxury to not be civically engaged and to not resist openly.”

For Morgann, that’s included having conversations, facilitating dialogue, and educating people who don’t come into direct contact with marginalized communities. She also said she started writing articles, organizing protests and rallies (including the Women’s March in Omaha), and connecting people to resources through her wide network in Omaha. Morgann also committed to using her privilege “to occupy certain spaces of relative power or relative access, and then I could connect other people in the community to those people that would normally [have] several barriers in front of them.”

She also views herself as a connector, having worked in different organizations including the Omaha Chamber of Commerce. Morgann said being in those spaces and roles allowed her to see the interconnection of political issues and the ways the system is siloed to prevent people from working together to create change.

Deciding to run

Morgann then expressed frustration with Nebraska’s elected officials in delaying and subverting the Medicaid expansion, which was approved through a ballot initiative last November. Morgann said, “At the end of the day instead of working on behalf of the people that are literally paying their salaries, they’re choosing to act because of their personal agendas or partisan politics or special interests lobbyists.” From there, our conversation turned towards the need to have “representatives in office focus on the community rather than the paycheck.” When asked if this prompted her to run for office, she said it was one of many reasons, including seeing the people in her community suffer without having anyone to advocate for them. She also expressed frustration in being asked to choose between the lesser of two evils in the voting booth. Morgann statedt without better choices, we will be stuck with Don Bacon and Jeff Fortenberry forever.

She also expressed the importance of diversity in representation, and frustration in seeing few representatives who reflect her identity as a queer woman of color. Morgann said initially not having role models made it hard to rise to the call of friends and community members to run. The turning point for her was a conversation with a little girl about the importance of voting. The little girl said, “I would rather vote for someone like you.” When Morgann replied, “there aren’t people like me to vote for,” the little girl said, “well why not you?”

Morgann Freeman

Putting the service back in public servant

When asked about policy stances, Morgann reiterated that she is running to serve her community and her policy will depend on what constituents want to see happen in health insurance or post-secondary education or other issues. In her conversations with voters, she said people in her community are less concerned with universal healthcare than they are with the cost of prescription drugs, the gaps created by Medicare and Medicaid eligibility requirements, and the ability to afford insurance on the market. While she mentioned she admires the universal health plans of presidential candidates Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, she wants to focus on asking what the people want. Morgann said, “At the end of the day, if it’s not going to be a priority for people at the districts, then it’s not my priority.”

I then asked how she intends to represent what is possibly the most diverse congressional district in the state. She replied that when people get talking about the issues using facts, there is more agreement than political rhetoric would imply around things like universal pre-K. She said when you are talking about access to the American dream and strip away the political rhetoric, there are pathways for consensus around issues as divisive as healthcare, immigration, and gun control. To come to that consensus she said she intends to be back in CD2 every weekend, if elected, to host events, visit local farmers markets and coffee shops, and most importantly to hold listening sessions. She emphasized the role of public servants is to serve the public.

Policy perspectives

On gun violence

Morgann did, however, have some concrete thoughts about the issue of gun violence in her community in the wake of the El Paso and Dayton shootings. She stated that she supports the Second Amendment and is not interested in taking guns away and is “100% supportive of protecting the civil rights and liberties afforded every American by the Constitution.” She also said she is 100% committed to intentionally and immediately removing the systemic injustices in the system. Morgann said, “The only way that we build a society where our children are free and safe and have the ability to access the mythical American dream is if we actually start to build protections for communities. And one of those protections needs to be gun control.”

Morgann continued, stating this plan needs to include background checks that don’t criminalize mental illness but are going to address things like domestic violence and sexual assault. She also said this plan needs to include getting an accurate count of how many guns are actually out there. She said that if you need a special operating license for heavy machinery and commercial trucks than you should have to have a special license to own a gun. And if people have to get a gun permit every year, it should include a place for people to list their weapons. She called these “common sense steps” that are a start to figure this out together. She also said there are immediate and tangible steps that local governments can and should be taking and it is infuriating that they haven’t been taking them.

On climate change

We also talked about climate change. Morgann stated, “Climate change needs to be a priority… it is not something up for debate… Science has shown it is a reality.” She continued, “It’s also shown that [climate change] is one of the biggest threats to our nation and our democracy.” She said as an individual voter she supports the Green New Deal, but wants to know what her district, some of which has been under water since March, wants. However, she was emphatic about the need for state and federal investment in infrastructure, stating “I know that Omaha is at least 50 years behind… And I think that our United States government needs to take a real look at how our budget is structured and to really prioritize how we build up our communities again.” And I think that our United States government needs to take a real look at how our budget is structured and to really prioritize how we build up our communities again.” She wants to see a comprehensive plan for the area, but stated that marginalized people in her community already pay too much in the many taxes the state and city keep layering on.

On civil rights for LGBTQIA+

Lastly, we spoke about a topic close to home for Morgann and many other Nebraskans, the rights of LGBTQIA+. We talked about Trump trying to roll back the civil rights of these individuals, the Attorney General of Nebraska’s full-throated support of that, and the failure of the Unicameral to pass work place protections for LGBTQIA+ in the last session. Morgann spoke at the LB627 hearing last winter. In that testimony she said, and reiterated again to me, that young adults are leaving Nebraska because they don’t feel safe here. Like everything else we talked about, however, Morgann felt moving the needle on this isn’t going to be done just in the statehouse, it needs to be done at the dinner table and at community events across the state; it needs to be done in person to person conversations.

Building a movement

She ended by reiterating that she’s not running a typical campaign, and that it isn’t about her, it’s about “building a movement.” For example, she said, “every fundraiser we’re doing, it’s giving back to the community or connecting people to the community,” and “It’s changing the way that our democracy works and really going back to putting the power of governments into the people’s hands.” To do that, it takes some uncomfortable conversations with people with whom we don’t always see eye to eye.

You can join Morgann in building this movement by getting in contact with Sydney at You can also follow the campaign’s Facebook page to stay up to date on events and donate through the campaign’s website.