Candidates make final pitches in Nebraska’s most competitive races for House, Senate

National groups working to elect Republicans and Democrats have given their congressional candidates research that shows some of the most effective messages for them to use down the stretch to Tuesday’s election.

That’s why so many Republicans are talking about the Trump economy: lower taxes, less regulation, growth. It’s why so many Democrats are emphasizing threats to people with pre-existing conditions and to Social Security.

Mentioning these key issues and a handful of others might help motivate a candidate’s supporters to vote or might help persuade some voters who haven’t yet taken sides to do so.

All four contenders in Nebraska’s most competitive federal races, the Omaha-area House race and the Senate race, are using bits and pieces of that advice, the candidates said, but each was already talking about those issues earlier.

The World-Herald reached out to U.S. Sen. Deb Fischer, R-Neb., and her opponent, Jane Raybould, to Rep. Don Bacon, R-Neb., and his challenger Kara Eastman. We asked each for their closing arguments.

Here are summaries of what each candidate said:

Bacon

Bacon, a retired Air Force brigadier general seeking his second term in the House, hammers the importance of maintaining the country’s direction.

To him, this race boils down to whether people like the Republican-led effort to reduce taxes, cut red tape and invest more in the military.

He knows people are concerned about rising deficits and debt but says he compromised to get increased military spending past the Senate.

He says the race is also about which direction people want the health care system to go, private or public. He favors a private system with government supports and improved transparency on costs. He’d prefer efforts to allow small businesses to buy insurance as larger groups and efforts to limit malpractice claims against medical providers.

Bacon says Social Security needs bipartisan fixes to shore up the program’s long-term finances, but he has no intention of privatizing it.

Immigration reform is another area where Bacon says both parties are going to have to work better together, citing the need for a fix for DACA participants, or those brought here illegally by their parents.

But he says that won’t be possible without significant investments in border security, including a wall, and shoring up the legal immigration system.

“I’m not a firebrand,” Bacon said. “I do work with Democrats. Got to.”

Eastman

Eastman, a member of the Metropolitan Community College board and former nonprofit executive, says she wants people frustrated by the direction of the country to vote for her.

She says she will stand up to President Donald Trump, not just meekly criticize the president when he speaks ill of women and minorities.

She says it’s time to push back against the corrosive influence of money in politics by electing someone without ties to major donors.

Eastman opposes recent Republican changes to Obamacare, including changes that made it possible for states to seek waivers on pre-existing conditions. She emphasizes her support for Medicare for all, political shorthand for a national single-payer health insurance system funded by federal taxpayers.

She also advocates for the federal government to fund a community college education to boost workforce development and people’s earning potential.

As for the tax overhaul, she points to parts of it that she says provide too much benefit to the rich and corporations as a place where she might vote to raise revenues.

She says she will do what it takes to protect the solvency of Social Security and Medicare.

Her closing argument boils down to this: People who want more of the same should vote Bacon. People who want something different, vote for her.

“The policy positions I have put forward, some of them are bold,” she said. “But we’ve never solved problems by putting forward milquetoast solutions.”

Fischer

Fischer, a Valentine rancher seeking her second term in the Senate, points to her record as her best argument for re-election.

She says she has built relationships with Republicans and Democrats in Washington, D.C., that benefit Nebraskans.

She points to funding for roads and bridges she helped secure. She emphasizes her role in securing funds for Offutt Air Force base’s new runway.

Fischer stresses her work across the aisle, including with Bacon’s predecessor, Brad Ashford, to secure a new Veterans Administration clinic in Omaha.

She discusses the importance of Nebraska maintaining its influence on the Armed Services Committee to keep StratCom and the 55th Wing.

Fischer also says she is proud of what Republicans accomplished in the tax overhaul bill, that it’s helping Nebraskans keep more of their own money.

She’s also glad to pass funding to help fighting opioid addiction, because Nebraska is seeing increases in deaths by drug overdose.

She does not apologize for a close working relationship with President Trump, pointing out how many times she spoke with him on trade. New deals with Canada, Mexico and South Korea show the value of that relationship, she says, so does the program offsetting economic uncertainty.

Fischer knows most Nebraskans don’t spend a lot of time thinking about levees, bridges, roads, and rural broadband, but she does.

“People know that I’m effective,” Fischer said. “I get results.”

Raybould

Raybould, a Lincoln City Council member and grocery chain executive, says her race hinges on whether Nebraskans want someone to fix Obamacare’s shortcomings or scrap it.

She tells voters she will think and act independently, that she won’t be held to the whims of the Democratic Party or its power structures.

She says her background shows she can work with Republicans, as she had to do when she was the lone Democrat on the Lancaster County Board.

Her closing pitch focuses on working to stabilize the health insurance marketplace, she says, to make sure insurers can price policies affordably.

She wants the federal government to take a more active role in negotiating better prescription drug prices by leveraging its position as a key buyer. And she wants to cut through regulatory restrictions and empower nurse practitioners to do more front-line health care, particularly in rural areas.

Raybould says Fischer and Republicans in Congress have allowed President Trump to manufacture a trade crisis that cost farmers and ranchers.

Raybould says says Congress should reclaim its authority on tradefrom the executive branch, because its actions harm ag producers and manufacturers.

She also says she’d get a farm bill done.

To her, this election comes down to priorities and who will set them properly. She says she would put Nebraska and its interests first.

“Nebraskans deserve better,” Raybould said. “They deserve a senator who will not only walk the talk but behave that way every single day.”

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