The urban versus rural divide is a hot topic in Lincoln and across the Midwest. But it doesn’t often get a lot of attention on the national stage.
Enter Amy Klobuchar, the senior senator from Minnesota, who was in Omaha on Friday to tout her top priority — a $1 trillion infrastructure plan. It’s a proposal that she said should unite urban and rural areas so they’re working together for federal funding rather than fighting over who gets it.
She’s the geographically closest Democratic presidential candidate in at least a decade — four years ago, all the candidates were from East Coast states. This year, the crowded field includes five other senators, all from coastal states, and multiple candidates from Texas.
(One other candidate is from a state bordering Nebraska — John Hickenlooper, the former governor of Colorado and co-founder of Omaha’s Upstream Brewing Company).
Nebraska Democratic Party Chairwoman Jane Kleeb said many Nebraska Democrats are far from making up their minds. But a Midwesterner like Klobuchar — as well as South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg, another presidential candidate — brings a lot to the table for Midlands voters.
“I definitely think Midwest and rural voters want to see candidates that look and sound like them,” Kleeb said. “I think that’s really important.”
Klobuchar emphasized her pragmatism and ability to get things done at her Nebraska event.
She was speaking to about 40 people at the Laborers’ International Local 1140 between western Iowa events. Many of the attendees were elected officials or community and Democratic leaders.
“She understands the connection of urban and rural communities,” said Spencer Danner, the 2018 Democratic candidate for Nebraska secretary of state.
Parts of Klobuchar’s infrastructure plan could have a major impact on rural states, including a push to connect all homes to the Internet by 2022 and a focus on rebuilding from flooding.
The plan includes a focus on preparing for climate change as well as rebuilding schools and transportation infrastructure. It would be funded in part by increasing the corporate tax rate to 25 percent — higher than what it is now but lower than before the recent Republican tax overhaul.
Sen. Deb Fischer, R-Neb., also focuses on infrastructure and agreed that it’s an area where there’s bipartisan support. “However,” she said, “Senator Klobuchar’s plan lacks specifics, reverses the good work we did to make America more competitive globally through tax reform, and fails to address issues Nebraska faces with the permitting process for federal highway projects.”
In Omaha, Klobuchar received cheers for her plan, particularly for promises about fair wages for workers.
And she took copious notes on the questions from the crowd. Klobuchar said she was particularly interested in the flooding at Offutt, saying it shows why her infrastructure pitch is needed.
“This is a great example to use nationally,” she said.