Fischer, Kerrey meet for final Nebraska U.S. Senate debate

Nebraska Senate candidates Bob Kerrey and Deb Fischer met for the final debate Monday. The two debated economic and domestic issues. Senator proposed changes to politics in Washington, D.C. during the debate. Photo: Brandon Olson, NewsNetNebraska

Story by Christina Condreay and Laura Smith, NewsNetNebraska

Nebraska U.S. Senate candidates Bob Kerrey and Deb Fischer squared off in their third and final debate Monday. Both candidates emphasized their plans for cutting the federal deficit and growing the economy during the NET News-hosted event. The debate aired live on the television station and NET radio. The 100-person audience appeared to be split evenly between Fischer and Kerrey supporters.

During the debate, the candidates reiterated their key campaign messages including tax code reform and agricultural issues.

One of the most hotly contested issues was Fischer’s “Fischer Plan.” According to the Republican candidate, the plan would add jobs and stimulate the Nebraska economy. Kerrey, a Democrat, said the plan would fail to do so and cost the state 50,000 jobs.

The candidates also sparred over healthcare. Kerrey said he was in favor of the Affordable Care Act and said it would become more popular after the law was put in place. Fischer said she was in favor of repealing President Obama’s landmark legislation, arguing for tort reform instead. Fischer then said the Affordable Care Act would steal $7 billion from Medicare.

Dealing with the deficit

Several times throughout the debate, the candidates spoke of their plans to reduce the $16 trillion federal deficit.

“I do not want to see taxes raised; that’s not the future I see for this country,” Fischer said. “I support a balanced budget amendment.”

Deb Fischer speaks to reporters after the NET News debate. The Nebraska U.S. Senate candidate emphasized aid to small businesses during the debate. Photo: Brandon Olson, NewsNetNebraska

Kerrey said that lowering taxes alone would not reduce the deficit, likening the issue to fitting too many programs into a glass slipper.

Kerrey brought up a constitutional amendment of his own limiting the power of money in politics.

“(I support an amendment) making Congress nonpartisan,” Kerrey said. The proposed amendment would also impose 12-year term limits.

After the debate, Bob Kerrey answers reporters' questions. The former Governor and Senator proposed changes to Washington, D.C. during the debate. Photo: Brandon Olson, NewsNetNebraska

“Amending the Constitution is easier said than done,” Fischer replied.

Both candidates agreed that Cap and Trade is not the policy the administration should be implementing to handle the U.S.’s energy needs. Fischer, however, said her energy plan would use and manage the abundance of natural resources available responsibly. Kerrey said Cap and Trade was not effective, but admitted there is a risk for an energy crisis and should be the first step for new legislation.

The lighter side of the debate

Sprinkled throughout the debate, the candidates lightened the mood. Kerrey said that Congressional reform was a priority.

“Water-boarding is more popular in Nebraska than Congress,” the former governor joked.

Fischer also earned some laughs from the audience when she commended Kerrey on his previous service.

“I respect you Mr. Kerrey, but I’m not supporting you in this election.”

The candidates closed the debate with their solutions to the problems facing Nebraskans.

Kerrey, the first to present his closing statement, said it would be difficult, but change is necessary. He also said he would be honored to serve Nebraska again.

Fischer closed with her proposed turn-around of the economy, including helping small businesses create jobs. The state senator said she believes Americans can meet the challenges before them.

In a late September, U.S. Senate campaign poll by the Omaha World-Herald gave Fischer had a 10 point lead over Kerrey.  The latest poll appears to show Kerrey making up a 25 point lead Fischer held in the race this past June.

Dennis Kellogg, NET news director, moderated the hour-long debate. He was joined by journalists Fred Knapp, NET News reporter and producer, Kevin O’Hanlon, Lincoln Journal Star reporter, and Colleen Williams, NET Kearney anchor, who asked the candidates questions.

Nebraska Senate candidates Deb Fischer and Sen. Bob Kerrey met for the third and final time Monday. NewsNetNebraska live-tweeted the debate.


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