Nebraska's U.S. Senate Candidates Debate in the Heartland

Six men hoping to represent Nebraskans in the U.S. Senate shook hands after the debate Monday at the Heartland Events Center in Grand Island (Photo by Ryan Robertson, Net News)
August 26, 2014 - 6:30am

The Nebraska State Fair was the host site for a political debate Monday night. Six candidates hoping to fill the seat Senator Mike Johanns is vacating debated topics ranging from agriculture to health care.


A crowd of a few hundred was on hand Monday night as six men trying to capture Nebraska's U.S. Senate seat took their seats on stage. The crowd was dominated by supporters for Republican candidate Ben Sasse and Democratic candidate Dave Domina, but it was independents filling most of the seats on the panel.

In addition to the two party candidates, four independent candidates took part in the debate. Two of them, Dennis Macek and Dan Buhrdorf, have not been officially certified for the ballot.  Each independent made it clear their ideas differ greatly from what you would find in Washington.

“The overwhelming issue of our time is how to arrest global climate change. Everything else is secondary," Independent candidate Dennis Macek of Lincoln said.  "Everything is secondary, even tertiary. Therefore I propose aggressive leadership to build partnerships between government and every industry that innovates and manufactures the means for getting and using renewable sources of energy.”

Dan Buhrdorf, also of Lincoln, proposed implementing a one percent tax on all Wall Street transactions, and mobilizing the federal reserve for public credit.

Listen to the entire Nebraska U.S. Senate candidates' debate from the Nebraska State Fair courtesy of KNEB Radio and the Rural Radio Network.

“And I think if we take this idea and use it and re-educate America about what kind of system we have here and what really works we’ll find cooperation in Washington,” Buhrdorf said.

Todd Watson, who’s running on a platform of liberty and stricter adherence to biblical principles, became emotional when the topic turned to agriculture, and he talked about his grandfather’s farm.

“[He] put me through school on that farm, [he] taught me about God on that farm, and how much it means to my mom and dad who have big businesses but never forgot their roots. This is Nebraska. This is why I fight,” Watson said.

Jim Jenkins, who emphasized he’s the only candidate from outside Lincoln and Omaha, said agriculture is one of the best examples of why more bipartisanship is needed in Congress.

“Unfortunately we saw that approach go away with the farm bill last year when the far right wing of the Republican Party held it hostage for almost an entire year over relatively trivial issues,” Jenkins said.

Both Dave Domina and Ben Sasse backed their respective party’s positions on the Affordable Care Act.

On immigration, Domina said it’s important to show compassion.

“I think that if someone is in the United States out of love for the country and the opportunities it presents, did not flee arrest in the country from which that person came, contributes with honor here and seeks to be an American, we should give that person an embracing love and an immediate pathway to the citizenship we cherish so much,” Domina explained.

Ben Sasse said there at least four different topics included in immigration reform, but Washington is too broken to fix everything at once.

“We should begin with the issues that are most pressing and most urgent and those issues that have bi-partisan support," Sasse said.  "First of all, the primary purpose of the federal government is to secure American citizens from enemies foreign and domestic. And when you don’t have a secure border, you don’t have a border that’s secure against trafficked nuclear materials.”

The debate lasted for 90 minutes at the Heartland Event Center in Grand Island. The four candidates who have officially qualified for the ballot will meet again next month in North Platte for a debate presented by NET News and the Nebraska Broadcasters Association.

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