The first and most likely only debate of Nebraska’s 2018 Senate race covered a lot of ground.
Sen. Deb Fischer, a Republican, and Lincoln City Councilwoman Jane Raybould, a Democrat, faced off at the State Fair in an event sponsored by The World-Herald and KMTV.
Here are some highlights:
Fischer said that the climate is changing and that man has contributed to the changes. Her focus, she said, is to make sure policy choices to address climate change consider the effects on Nebraska families.
Higher electricity costs from overly aggressive regulation in Washington, D.C., she said, can disproportionately harm public power ratepayers who would have to pay the bonds and debt on coal-fired power plants if they close and higher rates for electricity produced in other ways or purchased elsewhere.
Raybould highlighted the negative effects of flooding, fires and drought on farmers and ranchers and said a changing climate is making a tough job more challenging. She said she wants to get the government out of the way so entrepreneurs can create good-paying jobs in clean energy. People, she said, can find better solutions for the climate by working together.
Both Fischer and Raybould talked about the importance of biofuels, ethanol and biodiesel as part of the climate solution.
Both candidates were asked about their toughest decision as elected officials. Fischer, who has served on a school board in Valentine, as a state senator and as a U.S. senator, reached back to the Legislature. She cited her 2007 vote to preserve the death penalty in one of many attempts to repeal it.
The moment after the vote was cast, she said, after such a significant debate on the most serious issue facing any state, senators looked across at one another with mutual respect for the decisions made. The Legislature eventually repealed the death penalty in 2015. And Nebraska voters restored the ultimate sanction using a ballot measure.
Raybould cited her 2013 vote on the Lancaster County Board to privatize the community mental health center. She struggled to decide the best course of action for people who need care in an environment where it is exceedingly difficult to hire qualified mental health care professionals.
In the end, she said, the decision to privatize offered Lincoln-area residents who need mental health care the best chance to find help. The hardest part, she said, was trying to make sure the transition didn’t let people fall through the cracks.
Fischer said she has gathered law enforcement, school officials and mental health providers together to try to find solutions and identify people who might act out. Most mass shootings, she said, are carried out by people suffering mental health problems or terrorists.
Congress has passed legislation, she said, to provide training for schools and allow the use of federal funds for certain school security improvements. But the federal government has to work with state and local law enforcement agencies to make sure people who shouldn’t have guns don’t, she said.
She also said she was waiting for a federal report from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms on bump stocks before she decides whether a ban makes sense.
Raybould blamed Fischer and other congressional Republicans for obstructing commonsense gun regulations, including the ban on bump stocks that she helped the City of Lincoln pass. She said she would push to ban bump stocks and expand background checks on gun purchases.
She has said previously that she’d include private sales in those background checks. She has also said previously that she would pursue reinstatement of the Clinton-era assault weapons ban. She also says she’d work to help more schools add social workers.
Compromise or not
Both candidates said they had compromised or worked with members of the opposing party to accomplish legislation — and that they would do so again.
Fischer pointed to work with Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, on a water resource flexibility bill. She says the bill will help the $2 billion Omaha-area sewer separation project cost less. She has previously mentioned working with Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., on a strategy for Internet-connected devices, the so-called Internet of Things.
Raybould did not offer a specific example but said her work in business and politics has offered many opportunities to work with people who see the world differently. She has previously mentioned efforts to boost Lincoln’s recycling program. She also said that she would work with President Donald Trump if it were in the interests of Nebraskans and that she would stand up to him, too.