ORD -- Passionate debates were sparked as hundreds gathered to hear from Republican candidates and speakers in Ord on Saturday.

“I really hope [the heartbeat bill] gets through the legislature […] let’s show them adoption,” Nebraska gubernatorial candidate Theresa Thibodeau said of a legislative bill proposed by State Sen. Julie Slama, which would ban abortion once a fetal heartbeat is detected. Thibodeau said she believes having been a mother and small business owner makes her unique among candidates. 

She also talked to NCN about how she sees the state preventing brain drain, affordable housing being one answer. 

"You can talk with developers to bring them into the state to get growth going," she said. 

Other gubernatorial candidates in attendance included Breland Ridenhour, Jim Pillen, and Brett Lindstrom, in addition to a speaker for Charles Herbster, who was sick.

“I introduced seven bills, one dealing with tax reform and equalization aide to school districts across the state, bringing back the social security bill,” Lindstrom said, noting how the gala happened just as the Nebraska legislature began last week. 

Meanwhile Nebraskans Against Government Outreach showed up to share their thoughts on vaccine mandates. 

“Your body’s health and wellness is only your responsibility and nobody else has any affect on it,” said Allie French, founder of Nebraskans Against Government Overreach. She said her husband, a cancer fighter, fared better exercising and breathing without a mask. Her doubts about CDC regulations are part of why she was hoping the Nebraska Legislature this season will introduce stronger amendments to current bills -- to allow for healthcare workers and schools to erase demands for vaccines. 

Other speakers included Nebraska Secretary of State Bob Evnen and State Board of Education candidate Elizabeth Tekgmeier, who hammered down her concerns about critical race theory and previously proposed health education standards. 

The night’s speeches concluding with former Department of Defense’s Kash Patel and radio personality Trent Loos.

The Republican primary will be held in May. State Sen. Carol Blood is the lone Democratic candidate.