April 23, 2014

GOP Senate candidates discuss issues at UNO debate (AUDIO)

GOP US Senate candidates debate at UNO (R-L): McLeay, Dinsdale, Sasse, and Osborn

GOP US Senate candidates debate at UNO (R-L): McLeay, Dinsdale, Sasse, and Osborn

Four Republicans running for the seat being vacated by United States Sen. Mike Johanns discussed their views on immigration, the federal debt, health care, and the Ukrainian crisis during an hour-long debate held on the campus of the University of Nebraska-Omaha.

The Nebraska Republican Party sponsored the exchange of ideas among Omaha banker Sid Dinsdale, Omaha lawyer Bart McLeay, former state Treasurer Shane Osborn, and Midland University President Ben Sasse.

On the problem of illegal immigration, Dinsdale said a trip to the southern border convinced him the fence needs to be fixed.

“And I even went and stuck my toe in Mexico and came back in with no passport,” Dinsdale told the audience. “I’m not the most athletic guy. I didn’t poll-vault over the fence. It’s a low fence. And that’s just one gap of hundreds in the fence.”

Osborn says technology could help patrol the border.

“We have the technology in place. It’s quite simple,” according to Osborn. “But, we also know Washington, D.C. can’t agree on anything, right? It’s dysfunctional out there. So what we need is to rely on the governors or the legislatures of the border states. Let them decide it.”

Sasse accused the Obama Administration of not taking illegal immigration seriously.

“Fundamentally, I think this administration pays lip service to border security when, really, what they’re most interested in is trying to figure out how to turn Texas into a blue or a purple state,” Sasse stated.

The candidates share a laugh as McLeay jokes during the debate

The candidates share a laugh as McLeay jokes

McLeay said there are ways to secure the southern border.

“I’m in favor of the triple layer fence they use in San Diego. That is effective,” said McLeay. “For uneven terrain across the other parts of the southern border, we can use sensor technology and even some un-manned non-military aircraft to help us seal the border.”

None of the candidates favored President Barack Obama’s proposal to increase the federal minimum wage from the current $7.25 an hour to $10.10 an hour. All said such an increase would actually hurt those it is intended to help, arguing that businesses would have to scale back their employees due to the added costs.

All favor cutting federal governmental programs, even eliminating some federal agencies to reduce the size of government and lower the annual federal deficit. Yet, each candidate said that only economic growth could eliminate the $17 trillion federal debt.

Each candidate took shots at the Affordable Care Act, known as Obamacare, saying it should be repealed. They offered various alternatives.

As for the trouble in the Ukraine, the candidates suggested the Obama Administration’s foreign policy emboldened Russian President Vladimir Putin to move troops in position to threaten the former Soviet Union state.

McLeay advocated for economic sanctions and the diplomatic isolation of Russia.

“We need to take active, forceful steps toward Putin,” McLeay stated. “I don’t agree with our president, but I don’t like anybody like Putin pushing the United States around at all. So, I would take very aggressive action. But I’m not prepared to take military action, because I don’t think it’s necessary at this point.”

Sasse blamed President Obama for mishandling the crisis.

“We are in this position, because Barack Obama has a naïve, liberal world view that says that somehow aggression is out of date on the international stage,” according to Sasse. “And we’re being schooled on the international stage.”

Osborn claimed the U.S. has lost respect abroad.

“In the Middle East, they don’t respect freedom like we do. They don’t respect life like we do. But, they do respect strength and power. When you cross a line in Syria and let them get away with it that has more effects than just in Syria,” Osborn said.

Dinsdale accused President Obama of making matters worse.

“We have a real crisis in America on the foreign policy side, because we have a community organizer up against the former head of the KGB and you know who’s winning,” Dinsdale quipped.

AUDIO:  GOP U.S. Senate candidate debate, University of Nebraska-Omaha campus. [Apprx. one hour]

Osborn urges economic sanctions to curb Russian agression

United States Senate candidate Shane Osborn supports economic sanctions against Russia to stem the Ukrainian crisis.

Osborn, a Republican, says the United States needs to move to replace the energy Europe receives from Russia.

“I think this is a good opportunity for us to start exporting our liquid natural gas,” Osborn tells Nebraska Radio Network in an interview. “Now, that will take a while to do, but this could be a great opportunity to help supply Europe, because that’s the leverage the Russians have is that they can shut off the pipelines to many of these European countries.”

The energy ties Europe has to Russia hamper its ability to impose economic sanctions, according to Osborn. He says the U.S. and Europe need to cooperate on economic sanctions against Russian President Vladimir Putin.

“You need to have diplomacy, but at the same time he needs to take you serious and right now, Putin doesn’t take us serious,” Osborn says. “Because the Syrians don’t take us serious when we let them cross the red line. The Iranians don’t take us serious with this horrible agreement that we did that doesn’t do anything to curtail their uranium enrichment over there and their quest to get a bomb. So, why would Putin take us serious now?”

Osborn says this is no time to consider a military response, because economic sanctions should be enough to stem the aggression of Putin.

“That’s what we hope for. And I think it would hurt Putin right away and it would be something that we need to take action for right now. Kick him out of the G8. Start sending clear signals. If he’s worried about his financing going awry then he’s going to probably make some different choices.”

Osborn, the former state Treasurer, has filed in the Republican primary along with Midland University President Ben Sasse, Omaha banker Sid Dinsdale, Omaha lawyer Bart McLeay, and Clifton Johnson of Ft. Calhoun. Omaha lawyer Dave Domina has filed as a Democrat along with Larry Marvin of Fremont.

Gov. Heineman making no endorsement in race to succeed him, yet (AUDIO)

Gov. Dave Heineman says he hasn’t decided to endorse any of the candidates running for his job, yet.

Heineman, responding to a question during a news conference, says he might make an endorsement closer to the primary election day, May 13th.

“I’ve got a lot of friends in this race, OK. I get asked this question every single day,” Heineman responds. “I am going to watch their campaigns. I am going to watch what they stand for and, at the end of the day, maybe make a decision in late April or early May.”

Six Republicans have filed to succeed Heineman, a Republican who cannot run for re-election due to term limits.

Those Republicans are State Sen. Tom Carlson of Holdrege, State Sen. Beau McCoy of Omaha, Attorney General Jon Bruning, State Auditor Mike Foley, Omaha business executive Pete Ricketts, and Omaha businessman Bryan Slone.

Former Center for Rural Affairs Executive Director Chuck Hassebrook of Lyons is the only Democrat in the race.

Libertarian Mark Elworth Junior of Omaha has also filed.

Very early in the race, Heineman made an endorsement that he had to withdraw. Heineman backed the candidacy of his running mate, Lt. Gov. Rick Sheehy, to succeed him. Heineman withdrew that endorsement after Sheehy resigned in disgrace.

Sheehy resigned after the Omaha World-Herald raised questions about Sheehy’s improper use of a state-issued cell phone on which the Lt. Governor made late-night calls to several women.

AUDIO:  Gov. Dave Heineman on an endorsement in the race to succeed him. [:15]

McLeay insists he has experience to be next US Senator

United States Senate candidate Bart McLeay insists the federal health insurance law needs to be repealed, and also insists he can win in a crowded Republican primary.

McLeay says promising legislation to replace the Affordable Care Act has emerged in the House, in the form of House Resolution 2300, sponsored by Georgia Congressman Tom Rice.

“Refundable tax credits or deductions for people. Increase Health Savings Accounts to a point where people can make their own decisions as a consumer of medical services. Allow associations to be formed for small businesses and individuals so we can lower cost. Allow for insurance to be sold across state lines and my hope would be that we could form private exchanges,” McLeay tells Kevin Thomas, host of Drive Time Lincoln on Nebraska Radio Network affiliate KLIN.

McLeay favors current provisions in the ACA that allow people to carry their health insurance policy from job to job and that prohibit insurers from denying coverage to those with pre-existing conditions.

McLeay, a lawyer, says he would also allow doctors to use a “best practice” defense in medical malpractice cases, which he says would reduce the number of tests conducted, reducing health care costs.

McLeay asserts President Barack Obama has exceeded his authority in delaying enforcement of parts of the health insurance law. The president has delayed enforcement of the employer mandate for small businesses and lessened the requirement for larger businesses.

McLeay claims the president has abused the privilege of the executive order.

“I think we have to call the president to task on this,” McLeay says. “You know, it’s one thing to delay one part of the law or grant a waiver in order to implement a bigger law. We’ve now gutted the law through the president’s action.”

McLeay acknowledges he’s fighting an uphill battle in the Republican primary for United States Senate.

The crowded field includes former state Treasurer Shane Osborn, Midland University President Ben Sasse, and Omaha banker Sid Dinsdale.

McLeay dismisses any suggestions that public opinion polls indicate he is trailing all three.

“You know, the only poll that matters is on May 13th,” McLeay says. “This is a marathon. It’s not a sprint. There’s going to be ups and downs and people who are going to be the flavor of the week as they promote themselves in one way or another. But, I’m hoping that in a Republican primary, I’ll get to be known for the issues.”

McLeay says the decision for Republican voters in May will be to choose who is the best person to be in the Senate chamber to fight for Nebraska.

“I’ve been a business attorney now for 29 years. I studied accounting in school. I understand the financial issues as a business attorney and studying accounting, but I’ve also been an advocate. So, I’ve stood in front of judges, jurors, arbitrators, mediators in dispute resolution that is similar to that chamber in the United States Senate and I’m prepared to do that job.”

Brian Buescher files for Attorney General

Brian Buescher files for Attorney General in the Secretary of State's office

Brian Buescher files for Attorney General in the Secretary of State’s office

Former Douglas County Republican Chairman Brian Buescher has filed as a candidate for Attorney General.

Buescher says he would like to use his experience as a lawyer with an Omaha firm representing agricultural interest against federal regulations in the office.

“And, as Attorney General, I want to focus on pushing back on overreaching federal regulation and that particular aspect, which is an important aspect of the job these days, is one of the main reasons I’ve decided to get in this race,” Buescher says.

Buecher leads the agribusiness litigation team at Kutak Rock of Omaha.

Buescher says his experience in representing farmers, ranchers, and agribusinesses in legal battles with the federal government separates him from others seeking the office.

“I’ve actually done it. I’ve represented clients in fighting the EPA. I’ve represented clients fighting the Interior Department,” according to Buescher. “I have a good idea on how to do it and I’ve had some success at it and that is exactly why I am different, in my view, from the other candidates.”

The office of Nebraska Attorney General is being vacated by Jon Bruning, who has decided to run as a Republican for governor.

Buescher rejects the suggestion made by United States Attorney General Eric Holder that state attorneys general do not have to defend bans on same-sex marriage.

Buescher, who says he supports traditional marriage, says the job of the Attorney General is to defend state law, whether he agrees with it or not.

“One thing I will be if elected is a principled Attorney General, rather than a political one,” Buescher says. “I’m a rule of law person. We have laws in this state and they need to be enforced and I will enforce them. And I’m going to do so in a reasonable manner, but it’s not going to be me going in cherry-picking the laws that I like and don’t like and enforcing the ones that I like and don’t like.”

Kevin Thoms, KLIN, contributed to this article.