August 27, 2014

Democrat Domina and Republican Sasse spar in State Fair debate

United States Senate candidates staked out positions and tried to make distinctions during a 90-minute debate at the State Fair in Grand Island.

Whether the federal health care law pushed through Congress by President Barack Obama works became a point of contention between the two main candidates.

Democrat Dave Domina asserted repeal of the Affordable Care Act simply won’t happen, referring to Republican Sen. John McCain of Arizona’s contention that to try would be a “fool’s errand.”

“We don’t want to send a new U.S. Senator to the Senate on a fool’s errand,” Domina stated. “The Affordable Care Act works for many people; 76 million Americans have more access to prevention, eight million more are insured, seven million by extended Medicare.”

Republican Ben Sasse disagreed.

Sasse, who has built his campaign largely on a promise to work for repeal of the law, insisted it doesn’t work, because it didn’t address the real problem.

“But, the primary reason we have so much un-insurance and growing un-insurance is because Washington has already tried to pick winners and losers in the past, with a tax code that is biased for large firms and against farmers and ranchers and small business people which is where most of the job creation is happening,” according to Sasse.

On the possibility of immigration reform, Sasse stated a dysfunctional Washington cannot hope to pass comprehensive immigration reform.

“First of all, the primary purpose of the federal government is to secure American citizens from enemies foreign and domestic and when you don’t have a secure border, you don’t have a border that’s secure against trafficked nuclear materials,” Sasse said. “So, obviously we need to begin by actually securing the border first.”

Domina said America must embrace many of the immigrants who have made their way into the country illegally.

“I think that if someone is in the United States out of love for this country and the opportunities it presents, did not flee arrest in the country from which that person came, contributes with honor here and seeks to be an American, we should give that person an embracing love and an immediate pathway to the citizenship we cherish so much,” Domina stated.

Domina claimed he presented the best credentials to succeed Sen. Mike Johanns, a Republican who is retiring from public office.

“The United States and Nebraska have a big problem. It’s time to send from Nebraska our best prepared, our most articulate, our clearest thinker, our least partisan, and our most effective voice,” Domina said.

As for Sasse, he stated he wasn’t running to become a part of Washington.

“I’m not running for office, because I need a job or because I care about being a part of any club that’s called the U.S. Senate,” Sasse stated. “I’m running for office, because I want to have a great conversation about solving our big problems and passing on the meaning of America to the next generation.”

The debate also included independents Jim Jenkins and Todd Watson as well as two independent candidates who have yet to qualify for the November ballot.

The debate was sponsored by the Nebraska Cattlemen and the Rural Radio Network.

Tyson Havranek, KHAS, contributed to this article.

Jenkins, Watson get their chance during State Fair Senate debate

Independent candidates Jim Jenkins and Todd Watson got their chance to do battle with the two main candidates during the Senate debate held at the State Fair in Grand Island.

Jenkins even took a shot at presumed front-runner, Republican Ben Sasse, taking aim at Sasse’s response that Congress has become so dysfunctional there is no hope to pass comprehensive immigration reform even as he calls for repeal of the federal health care law.

“My question to Mr. Sasse is, that since Washington is so dysfunctional how does he plan on repealing Obamacare and starting over and coming up with a comprehensive new system of health care and yet the only thing that he expects Washington to do on the border is to do one issue and stop the border, not address the other two issues which are also critical?” Jenkins asked.

Sasse stated Congress should concentrate on securing the southern border. Jenkins contended the country needs to reform the worker visa program and offer a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants.

Jenkins told the State Fair audience his campaign is different.

“I’m the only farmer and rancher on this panel,” Jenkins stated. “I’m running a Senate campaign from Custer County, Nebraska; not Lincoln, not Omaha.”

The other independent who has qualified for the November ballot to succeed Republican Sen. Mike Johanns is Todd Watson of Lincoln.

Watson said, if elected, his focus will be on fiscal policy.

“What we are giving our kids is outrageous and we deserve to leave them in a better position than we inherited,” Watson said, adding that his proposals would be revenue neutral so they wouldn’t add to the federal debt.

As to the question of whether an independent could be effective in the two-party system of Washington, Watson said there are already examples in Washington of independents making a difference.

“We just passed a landmark bill this week with the leadership of Independent Bernie Sanders (Vermont). He’s a Socialist by the way, I’m just the opposite and conservative,” Watson said. “But it took an independent to lead reforms for veterans. It passed 97-to-3 and you out west, you are going to get service at your local hospital from this bill.”

The debate, sponsored by the Nebraska Cattlemen and the Rural Radio Network, also included two independent candidates who have yet to qualify for the ballot.

Tyson Havranek, KHAS, contributed to this article.

Group forms to push historic horse racing on November ballot

A group has formed to support historic horse racing on the ballot this November.

Jordan McGrain, a spokesman for Nebraskans for Amendment One, says those who support the issue decided they couldn’t wait until the Supreme Court rules whether it will actually make the ballot.

“We didn’t feel like we could wait for the court’s decision. Again, we feel confident that Nebraska voters are going to get to decide,” McGrain tells Nebraska Radio Network, adding that a campaign takes work and time and supporters believed they needed to act now. “So, we just felt like we had to move forward regardless of what that decision is.”

An anti-gambling group has taken the issue to court, claiming that it violates the state constitution requirement that ballot issues stick to one issue. Amendment One not only would authorize betting on historic horse racing, but designates how proceeds would be spent.

The State Supreme Court will decide whether that constitutes two issues or whether the distribution of funds is a separate, not merely a related, issue.

McGrain believes the proposed distribution of proceeds, especially the provision that money go toward property tax relief is a big seller for the issue.

“And I think that’s a pretty powerful thing,” McGrain says. “Clearly, property tax relief is a priority for most Nebraskans and this gives them direct access to that. So, I think that will be a deciding factor for a lot of folks.”

McGrain understands groups such as Gambling with the Good Life strongly oppose the issue.

“It’ll be a spirited campaign, just like anything is,” McGrain says. “We certainly hope that we do whatever we need to do to make sure Nebraska voters understand what’s at stake with the constitutional amendment, both for the future of horse racing in this state, it’s got a deep history and has been part of our culture for a hundred years, and for the absolute necessity of property tax relief.”

The legislature had approved the issue in the past, but couldn’t overcome a gubernatorial veto. This year, it decided to go directly to the voters.

Historic horse racing allows bets to be placed on previously run races via video machines, with enough of the identity obscured to disguise the outcome. They can only be set up at live horse racing tracks in the state.

Ricketts vs. Hassebrook for governor closer than many thought (AUDIO)

Pete Ricketts (right) listens to a voter

Pete Ricketts (right) listens to a voter

Republican Pete Ricketts won a narrow primary victory and it seems faces another tough race against Democrat Chuck Hassebrook as the two campaign to succeed Governor Dave Heineman.

A few polls have emerged on the Nebraska gubernatorial race, apparently a closer race than many expected.

Republican Pete Ricketts, the former TD Ameritrade executive, leads, but not by much.

“Well, I think if the polls are right, it’s good to be up, but again there’s nothing to be complacent about,” Ricketts tells Nebraska Radio Network. “We’ve got a lot of work ahead of us. My opponent is a smart, savvy guy and I expect him to be a tough opponent.”

That opponent is Democrat Chuck Hassebrook, the former Executive Director of the Center for Rural Affairs. He expects the race to tighten.

Chuck Hassebrook shares a laugh with a voter

Chuck Hassebrook (right) shares a laugh with a voter

“For most of the summer, people aren’t real focused on the gubernatorial election,” Hassebrook tells Nebraska Radio Network. “But starting especially in September they will be and that is when it will be critical for us to get a clear and compelling message out to voters.”

A Rasmussen Reports public opinion poll seems typical of the few polls that have been taken on the race. Rasmussen in mid-May released a public opinion poll from 750 likely Nebraska voters which gave Ricketts a 47-40% lead over Hassebrook.

Ricketts narrowly edged Attorney General Jon Bruning in the Republican gubernatorial primary in which six Republicans vied for the party nod to succeed Gov. Heineman, a Republican. Heineman cannot run for re-election due to term limits.

AUDIO:  Brent Martin reports [:50]

Independent Watson says Nebraska voters need an option for US Senate

Lincoln businessman Todd Watson says there really is only one reason he decided to enter the United States Senate race as an independent.

“Well, we just have a crisis of leadership in Washington. We need big solutions solved and we have two parties that will not work together to solve them,” Watson tells Nebraska Radio Network. “Fundamentally, faith-based guy, I care about the future of my kids and my family, my neighbors, this country. Fundamentally, it calls for leadership in which we just don’t have there right now.”

Watson says he decided he needed to get involved and take action.

Watson and Jim Jenkins are the two independents on the ballot to oppose Republican Ben Sasse and Democrat Dave Domina in the November race to replace retiring Senator Mike Johanns, a Republican.

Watson says voters can’t keep voting in Republicans and Democrats.

“They need a different option. It’s not working. If they do the same thing over and over and expect different results, they’re insane,” Watson says.

Watson says it should be evident that Washington no longer works with Republicans and Democrats in charge.

“We have the results to know they don’t act bipartisan,” according to Watson. “There is no working together anymore and that has to change.”

Watson says he understands running as an independent is an uphill battle, but he says that if he has a chance to talk with voters, he can win them over.