Adrian Smith has represented Nebraska’s vast 3rd Congressional District since 2007. Next week, he’ll face Tom Brewer in the Republican primary, in what could be one of the strongest election challenges of Smith’s career.
Nebraska’s 3rd Congressional District is one of the largest and most Republican districts in the nation.
Congressman Adrian Smith is the incumbent. He lives in Gering, in Nebraska’s panhandle. Smith graduated from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln in 1993, and then began working as a realtor. His political career began in 1994, when he was elected to the Gering City Council. In 1998, Smith was elected to the Nebraska Legislature.
In 2006, he was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives, after beating four others in the Republican primary for the seat vacated by Tom Osborne.
Smith now sits on the House Committee on Ways and Means, and said he knows how to fix the country’s economy.
“I think the best thing that we can do for our economy right now, would be to simplify our tax code, eliminate some loop holes and lower the rate so it would be revenue neutral, it wouldn’t be a huge immediate tax reduction, it wouldn’t be a money grab. It would be right in the middle of reforming our tax code,” Smith said.
In addition to tax reform, Smith said the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare as it is also known, is a prime example of the federal government hurting his constituents. That’s why he introduced legislation in February to repeal a rule that said Medicare or Medicaid patients couldn’t stay at critical access hospitals more than 96-hours.
“Critical access hospitals are very different one from another. There are one-physician hospitals and there are multiple-physician hospitals that are able to practice in different ways. We need to make sure the federal government allows them to do their job to provide the needs to their community rather than being second guessed by the federal government around every corner,” Smith said.
Smith has faced challengers in previous primaries, but none of those were considered serious contenders.
This year could be different. Tom Brewer is running to unseat Smith, who he calls a “self-professed career politician.”
Brewer was raised on a farm near Gordon in northwest Nebraska, near the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. His grandmother was Lakota Sioux.
Brewer joined the Nebraska Army National Guard in 1977. He was mobilized for Operation Desert Storm, and served six tours of duty with the 10th Mountain Division and 3rd Special Forces Group while in Afghanistan.
He was awarded his second purple heart after being hit by a rocket propelled grenade in 2011, and then spent the next 18 months recuperating. After 36 years of military service, he retired as a colonel in January. The next day, he entered politics.
“Probably the single thing that would separate us more than anything else, would be just leadership and a passion to fight,” Brewer said.
“We may vote the same on a lot of issues. Adrian is a nice guy, don’t get me wrong, but I think we’re in a period of time when we need warriors, we need fighters that will go in there and take issues and not just sit in the shadows and make a vote and call it a day,” he added.
Now, instead of tours of Afghanistan, Brewer’s been touring the western two-thirds of the state, introducing himself to voters and letting them know what kind of leader he would be.
Brewer said if elected, he would work to champion Nebraska issues, like ethanol and easing the tax burden in rural areas. He said jobs in small towns are evaporating because of overreach by OSHA, the EPA, and now the Affordable Care Act.
However, he says he wouldn’t vote to repeal the health care law, but would instead vote to defund portions of it.
“I think we’re going to waste a lot of energy trying to repeal it because the president is the president for the next two and a half years, he’s not going to sign off on repealing Obamacare and we’re not going to have enough votes to override a veto. So I think we have to manage within our limitations now,” Brewer said.
When it comes to immigration, both Brewer and Smith agreed more could be done. Brewer proposed using soldiers returning from overseas as a way to secure the U.S.-Mexico border.
“It’s a real world mission. It’s great training for them. It’s in conditions that they may someday actually have to operate in,” Brewer said.
Smith, the grandson of German-Russian immigrants, agreed securing the border is important, but said government’s bureaucratic approach to immigration may be part of the problem.
“A law-abiding individual should be able to pursue the American dream without having to pay several thousands of dollars, hiring an attorney, waiting several years, and still hoping to get lucky with our current system. Jack Kemp said back in the 90’s that we better make sure the front door of immigration works, so people don’t just go around to the back,” Smith said.
Adrian Smith and Tom Brewer may agree on many of the issues, so voters on Tuesday will have to decide who they feel will get more done in Washington.