Photo by George Lauby
Fischer listens to a question in Stapleton, July 17
Photo by George Lauby
Photo by George Lauby
Photo by George Lauby
Nebraska has become “ground zero” in an all-out fight for control of the federal government.
That’s the message that Deb Fischer delivers as she travels around the state on the campaign trail for the U.S. Senate.
The majority of the Senate could be determined by the winner of Fischer’s battle against Democrat Bob Kerrey. Fischer says her win could be enough to give the Republicans the clout they need to roll back health care reform and write a balanced budget amendment into the U.S. Constitution.
Republicans already have a hefty majority in the House of Representatives. If they can claim the Senate and win the White House, they plan to get things done that they can’t do now.
“For us, it all starts here if we are going to change the direction of the county,” she said on a recent campaign swing around the state, with stops in Stapleton and North Platte.
Fischer is a rancher’s wife from Valentine who knows how to get her hands dirty. She can doctor a newborn calf as well as work the halls of the Legislature to craft new laws and get them enacted.
A year ago, Fischer successfully steered a bill through the Nebraska Legislature that takes money from state sales taxes to pay for roads. Gov. Dave Heineman opposed her.
That didn’t stop Fischer, much to the surprise of outside observers.
The vote was 33-10 in her favor.
“I can work with others to get things done,” she said July 18 at the Espresso Shoppe in North Platte. “I have a non-partisan record. In the Legislature, there are 49 of us. We have to work together to get things done.”
Earlier this year, Fischer said she worked out a compromise on a bill right on the floor of the Legislature, huddling with urban senators who opposed her.
On the other hand, she said Kerrey talks like he’s a moderate but he voted with Democrats 90 percent of the time when he held office a decade ago.
Fischer says she is a straight talker.
“My colleagues think I’m pretty blunt,” she said. “I don’t know about that, but I like straight talk.”
Fischer and Kerrey are both raising money like crazy. Fischer raised $1.3 million from April 26-June 30 and has more than $1.1 million in cash-on-hand, giving her adequate resources to run an aggressive, statewide paid-media campaign, she recently announced.
Kerrey raised $1.53 million in the same time.
That officially makes it horse race.
Fischer tells supporters she intends to run a positive campaign based on the issues. She also says that will include television ads.
Both candidates are attracting money from out of state. Earlier in the year, Kerrey raised nearly $700,000 from out of state donars.
Fischer said she didn’t know the latest percentage, but would be surprised if half of her donations are from out of state.
Fischer turned down Kerrey's request for seven debates during the campaign, but agreed to go face-to-face in a State Fair debate at 4 p.m. Aug. 25. And, Fischer told the Bulletin she will also debate Kerrey two other times in September.
We’ll get some ads up,” she told about 18 people at a gathering at Kimber's convenience store near Stapleton. “We’ll reach people across the state."
"It’s a long race in terms of miles traveled, but we’re getting a good response," she said. "After the primary win, we had 400 people contact us and offer to volunteer. We still get 10-12 offers a day. It is good to see the response from friends and neighbors, to see how they want the country to be. It keeps me going as a candidate.”
Greed vs. need
Democrats are attempting to seize on money issues, blaming greed for the sour economy, noting that the wealthy don’t want any tax increases even though the tough times call for sacrifices.
Presidential candidate Mitt Romney, they note, moved up to $200 million into offshore accounts to avoid paying any U.S. taxes.
But Fischer said that is not her issue – she doesn’t keep money offshore.
She says Congress needs to cut spending and regulations to allow businesses to expand and grow, without a tax increase.
“I’m not ready to say ‘both’ to raising taxes and cutting spending to balance the budget,” she said. “if you talk about raising taxes, that points the discussion in a different way. It’s not the way we should go.”
She recently visited Olson Industries of the small town of Atkinson and came away impressed. The company employs 100 people and make galvanized containers that are used for airport lights. They ship overseas.
She said that is an example that U.S. entrepreneurs can compete internationally and create jobs if the government would get out of their hair.
Fischer said companies are very concerned about the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, which has the power to fine companies for violations. OSHA has more than 2,300 employees.
And she says businesses are unsure about taxes.
“They tell me if the tax policies would just stabilize for a couple of years, they could expand,” she said.
In fact, Fischer wants to cut taxes on corporate profits to 25 percent from 35 percent. She said she wants to close loopholes, but she shied away from advocating less tax credits for businesses.
“If you give them stability, they can do long-term planning,” she said.
In Stapleton, a woman encouraged her to “always be honest. We are not stupid. We can recognize a lie.”
“I’ve always given it to you straight,” Fischer replied. “I will continue to do that, even if we disagree. I expect you to hold my feet to the fire.”
In North Platte, taxpayer advocate Mike Groene said Fischer is better than Kerrey, but he doesn’t like some of the things she’s done. He said Fischer helped torpedo his STOP spending petition campaign in 2006 to limit the growth of state government.
Groene asked Fischer if she will eliminate federal community development block grants, which pay for such things as street and building improvements. Groene considers the CDBG program to be ways cronies give money to each other.
“The federal government shouldn’t be sticking its fingers in local economies,” he said.
Fischer said the best government is always local government. She said if the CDBG program isn’t working right, it should be reformed but not necessarily eliminated.
Fischer’s conservative talk doesn’t always impress listeners.
“She talks like a politician,” said a Stapleton resident after she drove down the road. “We need someone to get stompin’ mad.”
“This is a serious time,” Fischer said. “This is a big, tough race. I’ll be running hard in Nebraska, everyday.”
This report was first published July 18 in the print edition of the North Platte Bulletin.