Photo by George Lauby
Locked in a close race, U.S. Senate candidate Jon Bruning told the Bulletin Saturday that he won’t take a back seat to anyone.
Bruning stopped on the campaign trail to meet with the Bulletin to respond to harsh criticism of his opponents.
“I’m not a back bencher,” he said. “My opponents can talk a good game but I’m willing to fight for what I believe.”
Bruning, Don Stenberg and Deb Fischer, all experienced Republican politicians, are locking horns in the race for the U.S. Senate, firing attack ads at each another.
The winner will be decided Tuesday in the primary election.
Pointing to 20 lawsuits against the Obama administration that he has led or signed onto, Bruning notes that when Don Stenberg was attorney general, "he didn’t sue the Clinton administration once.”
Stenberg has accused Bruning of being soft on the Constitutional right to keep and bear arms. Bruning says that’s a bogus claim.
He’s opposed to any form of gun control.
“I have an ‘A’ rating from the National Rifle Association,” he said. “I carry a shotgun in my truck and not that long ago I was out chasing pheasants. I’m a huge supporter of the second amendment and a lifetime contributor to the NRA.”
He said as president of the association of state attorneys general, he endorsed U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder when he was appointed in 2008.
"I was asked if I would be supportive," he said. "Nobody knew him at the time. Some Republicans were supporting him, such as Sen. Jeff Sessions, not a liberal by any means. And, the Democrats had control of the Senate and were probably going to approve him anyway. I figured if he pushed for some bad programs, I could fight him when the time came."
Bruning has accumulated a small fortune during his time in public office, investing in several companies. Critics worry that he crosses the line between public and private interests.
“That’s been dramatically overstated,” he said. “I’ve invested in some stuff with college friends, along the lines of 10 guys getting together to buy a building, where everyone puts up $20,000 or so. Some of those investments have done well. There’s nothing wrong with that.”
Too many regs
Bruning wants to focus on what he would do if he’s elected -- cut government regulation, notably the Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Energy, which are currently cracking down on the use of coal to generate electricity.
EPA forced a $35 million overhaul at the Gerald Gentleman Station near Sutherland, one of the cleanest burning coal plants in the country.
That’s ridiculous, Bruning said.
“We have clean air out here,” he said. “You could sleep in the shadow of Gerald Gentleman and be just fine.”
Bruning points to his accomplishments as Nebraska’s Attorney General.
He said the Medicaid fraud division has found $50 million in illegal claims and returned it to the state treasury in six years. He’s also staffed a consumer fraud division with unpaid college interns who take reports and pass them on to attorneys if necessary.
That division has handled 5,000 reports a year, and so far this year refunded $1 million in overcharges.
If the U.S. Supreme Court overturns “Obamacare,” Bruning said business competition can make health care more affordable, but first, businesses could stop providing it.
“With employer sponsored health care, people don’t really have a choice in what they get,” he said. “Individuals should be able to buy insurance with groups of other individuals.”
“And it should be a la carte,” he said. “A couple in their 40s does not need insurance to cover childbirth.”
Bruning promises to work across the aisle in Congress, given one agreement.
"We all have to come to full agreement to reduced spending." he said. "We are $16 trillon in debt."
Bruning was elected president of the association of state attorneys general, a group of 30 Democrats and 20 Republicans.
“Some of my best friends are Democrats,” he said. “We might disagree all day but still have a beer after 5 p.m.”
On a lighter note, Bruning said he would put his cowboy boots and hat in his car. He was recently accosted for going without western wear on a Friday in North Platte.
“I have two cowboy hats and three pairs of boots in my closet,” he said. “I might have to throw them in the trunk.”
Bruning wrapped up a two-week, 15-city tour of Nebraska Saturday, with stops in Sidney, Scottsbluff and Hastings, besides North Platte.
He was in McCook Friday.