Roughly 200 people gathered Friday afternoon in front of U.S. Sen. Deb Fischer’s office in west Omaha, protesting her decision to vote for Betsy DeVos as education secretary.

The protesters, holding signs that said things like “Bad move Deb!” and “Corporate hands off education,” questioned DeVos’ competence and her devotion to charter schools, and said if Fischer, a Republican, voted to confirm, they would remember it when she ran for re-election in 2018.

“We want to hit her where it hurts,” said Dena Draskovich, one of the protesters. “Her re-election is not a sure thing.”

When a speaker asked who in the crowd was a teacher, maybe half cheered. Some were students. Some protesters brought their children.

Jennifer Simpson, who brought two children, said she was concerned that DeVos had difficulty answering questions during a Senate committee hearing.

Simpson said if she had answered questions that way during a job interview, she would not be hired.

“She did not seem very prepared for this job,” she said. “She did not give me a good feeling.”

DeVos has proven to be one of President Donald Trump’s most troubled nominations.

Nearly all Republican senators are expected to vote to confirm DeVos’ nomination. But Fischer, whose mother was a longtime teacher in Lincoln Public Schools, was seen as someone who could be persuaded to vote “nay.” Because two GOP senators have announced they will do so, one more switch by a Republican could torpedo the nomination.

But on Thursday, Fischer announced her support for DeVos: “While I do not agree with Mrs. DeVos on every issue, I do believe she has the ability and commitment to lead the department,” she said in a press release.

As is, if Democrats remain united against the nominee, Vice President Mike Pence will be needed to break a tie vote, even with Fischer’s support.

andrew.nelson@owh.com, 402-444-1310

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