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Nebraskans are fortunate this year to have two serious, qualified candidates seeking their votes for the state's next U.S. senator.
Democrat Bob Kerrey and Republican Deb Fischer have offered voters a robust, intelligent, largely on-point debate of the critical issues facing the nation.
We recommend Fischer, a Valentine rancher and two-term state senator.
Bob Kerrey deserves the thanks of Nebraskans. He is a native son who earned the Medal of Honor in service to the nation, served his state as its governor and served both the state and the nation as a U.S. senator.
But the Democrat walked away from that job in 2001 after two terms, for personal and professional reasons that are perfectly understandable. He left behind critical issues — those on which he had shown leadership and which remain on the front burner today: Social Security and Medicare reform, health care, national security, the nation's intelligence-gathering machinery. If he had remained a senator, he could have had a major impact on them all.
His somewhat clumsy return to Nebraska after a decade in New York City — first deciding not to run, then a last-minute change of heart and address — has left many Nebraskans thinking he only came back to be a senator again.
Fischer, the Republican candidate, has proved herself to be a smart, hardworking and able legislator during two terms in the Nebraska Legislature, someone who has earned the respect of friend and foe alike with her lawmaking skills.
She's shown, too, that she's not afraid of a fight. Her long-shot victory in the Republican primary is ample evidence of that. As longtime Fischer friend and Republican national committeewoman Joyce Simmons put it: “Deb is as tough as barbed wire.”
On key issues in this campaign, Fischer has voiced positions many Nebraskans approve of: growing private-sector jobs, not raising taxes, controlling government spending, supporting agriculture, recognizing that entitlement programs must be changed to remain solvent.
“I talk to Nebraskans. I listen to Nebraskans,” she said in an interview. “That's who I am.”
Fischer has been a tenacious advocate for the interests of her sprawling Sand Hills legislative district, yet colleagues say the Lincoln native also recognizes the concerns of urban residents.
In two terms, she was a fast learner and a leader, rising to chair the Legislature's Transportation and Telecommunications Committee and demonstrating a command of complex issues ranging from education funding to telecommunications matters.
Taking care to master the details of the legislation she chooses to pursue, Fischer has shown that she can get things done. She pushes hard for her proposals, but she also has displayed a willingness to negotiate and compromise when that is the only way forward.
She excels at one-on-one persuasion of colleagues. During floor debates, she is known for offering substantive comments that clarify and persuade rather than simply add more verbiage to the proceedings. In this era of term limits, she arrived in Lincoln with a solid understanding of the Legislature and its ways, earning the nickname “The General” for her mastery of lawmaking tactics.
As one veteran legislative colleague said: “There will be a learning curve for her in Washington, but she will be a quick study. She is somebody about whom Nebraskans will say, 'She'll work for us. She'll do what she thinks is right.' ”
That's our assessment as well, and we recommend Deb Fischer for the U.S. Senate.