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.
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Each candidate took shots at the Affordable Care Act, known as Obamacare, saying it should be repealed.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]