Candidate responses are posted exactly as we received them and have not been edited.
Incumbent Deb Fischer, Jane Raybould and Jim Schultz are running for U.S Senator representing Nebraska.
Deb Fischer (Incumbent)
Political Party: Republican
Hometown: Lincoln, NE
Current City: Valentine, NE
Political Party: Democrat
Hometown: Lincoln, NE
Current City: Lincoln, NE
Political Party: Libertarian
Hometown: Lincoln, NE
Current City: Lincoln, NE
Previous work experience:
Fischer: Rancher, school board member, state senator
Raybould: I serve hundreds-of-thousands of Nebraskans who walk through our grocery stores each week, and it's those hard-working people who I think of when faced with a tough issue. I bring my business brain with me wherever I go. As a Lincoln City Council member and before that as a Lancaster County Commissioner, I look to be a good steward of taxpayer dollars, finding efficiencies, cutting waste and, most importantly, listening to the needs of those I serve.
Schultz: My career was spent in Information Technology as a programmer and team/project lead. I built a reputation for innovative solutions that went well beyond the requirements.
I also have experience in construction, education, corrections and truck driving.
Fischer: My husband Bruce and I raised our three sons on our ranch 30 miles south of Valentine. We have three grandchildren.
Raybould: A fourth generation Nebraskan, I help run the grocery business her parents started more than 53 years ago. B & R Stores Inc and its 21 locations of Super Saver & Russ's Markets across the state employ more than 2,000 Nebraskans. I live with my husband of 33 years, Jose Herrero and our two dogs: Milo and Buddy. Jose and I have two adult children, Clara and Gabriel, as well as a son-in-law Micah and daughter-in-law, Marie.
Schultz: I was born into a military family and moved frequently before settling in Nebraska around age 6.
I attended Lincoln Public Schools and graduated from Lincoln High School. I attended the University of Nebraska at Lincoln where I received my Bachelors of Science in Computer Science and Engineering.
I celebrated my 20th Wedding Anniversary this year and have two adult children.
What was your very first job?
Fischer: Waitress at the old Walgreens at Gateway Mall
Raybould: My first job at the age of nine was making change in the fireworks stand at my parent's family grocery store. I went on to washing pans in the bakery department and then the sweetest job of all: making doughnuts. After college and some work experience, I came back to Nebraska to help run our family's grocery stores.
Schultz:My first job was a paper route when I was in elementary school.
What life achievements are you most proud of?
Fischer: Passing the first national paid family leave program which opens opportunities for millions of working families. My voluntary solution provides businesses with a tax credit to offer up to 12 weeks of leave allowing families the flexibility to take care of a sick child or check on an elderly parent without another government mandate.
Raybould: Operating on a deficit is not an option when you run a business and one of the things that I'm most proud of is how our family businesses has met payroll and kept growing over more than five decades. In business and in government, I'm proud of my record as being a "fiscal hawk" -- zeroing in on ways to make government more efficient, so that we can continue or even expand services to our public without raising taxes.
Schultz: Besides my family, the achievement I am most proud of is my 10-years of service with the Boy Scouts. This included starting a new troop and working as the Business Manager at summer camp.
What would be the first thing you do once elected?
Fischer:Congress needs to finalize trade agreements with our partners around the world providing the economic certainty Nebraska ag producers need.
Raybould: First, I'll work to end the trade war by working with my colleagues on both sides to reassert the authority of the Congress over trade policy. My first policy proposal will be to end the influence corporate PAC money has over the lawmaking process. I'll also work to lower the cost of health care and protect retirement security for Nebraskans.
Schultz: In the time between election and taking office, I would try to schedule as many meeting as possible with various constituency groups to ensure that I am not only taking my ideals to Washington, but also the concerns of the people of Nebraska.
Why should voters choose you in this election?
Fischer: More than five years ago, I promised you if you trusted me with the honor of representing you in the United States Senate, I would stand tall for our shared values and build relationships with my colleagues to get things done. Together, we have done that and delivered results for Nebraskans. We cut taxes, rebuilt our military, provided a paid family leave option for working families, and cut regulations for small businesses.
Raybould: I'm stepping away from the work that I love at my family's business because I think it's time that we had a Senator who actually listened to her constituents and cared more about doing what's right for our families than winning her re-election campaign. In office, I hope to be a voice for Nebraskans on issues that matter to them from health care to the farm bill to cutting taxes for the middle class.
Schultz: Congressional approval ratings are at an all-time low and surveys show that most Americans feel abandoned by their government. This will never change unless we stop electing people out of fear and swinging between the two old parties.
I am a truly independent voice for the people of Nebraska and not beholden to elites behind the scenes.
Only by bringing new and unencumbered voices to Washington can we expect to right this ship.
The responses from the candidates below have been transcribed from our on-camera interview. Deb Fischer's campaign denied our request for an on-camera interview.
What do you think is the best way to tackle illegal immigration?
Raybould: It's unfortunate but what were hearing and seeing is that Washington again has failed to solve the immigration problem, it’s another problem of their dysfunction. Senator Fischer has been around for six years, under two different administrations and has not made any efforts to come up with solutions. This is what we need to do, we realize that we cannot have open borders, we have to protect our borders and also we acknowledge that there are 11 million undocumented immigrants already in our country that we cannot track. So the first step is that we need to secure our borders, now what does that mean, it means there’s a wall in some places like there is now or electronic monitoring and working with our border patrol. The second step is really looking to come up with solutions that work and that means breaking up and coming up with reforms piece by piece. The Senate and House were close at passing reform on DACA recipients, we need to go back and come up with solution. Why, because we have 3,400 DACA recipients in the state of Nebraska, we have invested in these young people and their education, they're law abiding, tax paying, intelligent, amazing, talented, capable, young people. We want to keep them in our state so we need to reengage on DACA, coming up with solutions to make sure they are on the pathway to legalization and citizenship. The next step we need to do is we need to expand the visa lotteries for our high tech individuals. Lincoln and Omaha we are known as the silicone prairie and we want to make sure we can get more high tech individuals into our state and into our country. We want those jobs to stay right here because we know it’s easier to do a start up and it's a lot cheaper to do a start up company right here in Lincoln and Omaha. We need to expand our guest workers visas, these are individuals that help with our ag economy, we have a workforce shortage so we want to open up work force visas for guest workers to come in and help with all the things that we do. The next thing we need to do is focus on immigration reform for the 11 million undocumented. These are hard working, in many cases law abiding and tax paying individuals, in our state and our economy depends on this work force. We need to bring them out from the shadows, we need to get them documented, and we need to make sure we get them on a path to legalization. I'm not sure if it should be a program like deferred action, where they have to demonstrate but they have to go through screening and vetting. The last step I would recommend is EVerify, as a grocer we have been using EVerify for the past 15 years it would be the sweep to make sure any of those individuals that are undocumented would now have another opportunity to get documented. We've been a country of immigrants since our beginning and we know that immigrants and refugees are a great contributor to the economic vitality in our state and we should be doing everything, and I am committed to doing everything I can as your next US Senator, to coming up with solutions on immigration reform and not kicking that can down the road.
Schultz: I think the best way to tackle illegal immigration is a complete rework of our immigration system. Right now we've got dozens and dozens of different visas and a lot of times people will work their way halfway through one only to have some bureaucrat tell them no you should be in another system. We need to make it to where it's actually a workable system and its not designed to actually hinder people in their search to become citizens.
Does America need tighter restrictions on gun ownership, manufacturing or sales?
Raybould: When we talk about gun ownership we all recognize and respect the 2nd amendment, but again we just had another mass shooting and we hear politicians in Washington say "our thoughts and prayers go out to the victims of the family" and then they take no action. We need to elect a Senator who will be a voice for so many of those who have been silenced by gun violence in our country. And it starts with common sense gun safety measures. Unfortunately, Senator Fischer has been to extreme. She has voted eight times against common sense gun safety measures including ending the loop holes and background checks. Even allowing a potential terrorist on the no fly list, to buy a gun. Nebraskan’s want common sense gun safety measures. That means universal background checks, that means ending the loop holes in gun ownership, that means even looking at additional measures that we can take to keep our children and our families safer. If that means reimplementing the assault weapons ban that’s what we need to look at. We cannot keep taking no action. Americans, Nebraskans want us to implement common sense gun safety measures and we need a Senator who will do that and not accept NRA money and be beholding to those manufactures. We need to elect and independent minded senator who will stand up and protect our kids and our families in our state.
Schultz: I don't think that we really need any tighter restrictions. The second amendment is pretty clear. There is a huge difference between what's actually going on. Violent crime is down and it has been trending down now for almost 30 years. But there is a huge perception thanks to social media and the traditional media covering huge stories that the country is getting more and more violent. That’s simply not backed up in the statistics. I think we need to take a breath and take a step back and look at what’s really happening and not just jump for the easy answer of tighter gun restrictions.
How will the President's trade policies including tariffs impact Nebraska?
Raybould: I can tell you that when I talk to farmers and ranchers throughout Nebraska we know that the current trade practices are unworkable. We know that our farming families are hurting and Senator Fischer is again apart of the problem. She has not stood up to challenge the tariffs. I am glad to see the Nebraska Chamber of commerce, the Greater Omaha Chamber of Commerce, and the Lincoln Chamber of Commerce have all been strong supporters of coming out against the tariffs. There taxes on hard working Nebraskans, there taxes on everyone in our country. We need a Senator who is going to reassert the authority of the U.S. Senate to challenge the tariffs and to get the tariffs nullified, but its even broader than that. We need to reengage in the trans-pacific partnership. We need to have more trading partners not fewer trading partners. Our farmers want trade, they do not want the bail out, they don’t want a Senator who continues to blow our deficit by offering them 12 billion dollars in aide, and they want trade. Our farmers are resilient, they are outstanding, responsible, reliable, trading partners. That’s what we do best, we not only feed the world, we fuel the world and we need a Senator who is also going to be a champion for the farm bill. There is so many uncertainties impacting our farming families right now and Senator Fischer, it’s only this year, an election year that she’s on the all important agriculture committee. Where we need to have a champion fighting for our farmers and farming families. And so what’s happened with the farm bill? It’s lapsed, it expired September 30th. Senator Fischer is not even on the conference committee to do her work and get the job done. But even getting the farm bill extended to help our farming families, particularly our young farming families, and our veteran farmers who would like to be able to do what they do best but that funding has lapsed to reach out to additional trading partners. That’s critical and that was in the farm bill that expired September 30th and the other element that expires September 30th is impactful to our rural communities is funding for world businesses, entrepreneurship. That’s what our farming families need and know certainty that when it comes to the farm bill and again this is a failure on Senator Fischer’s part by not getting it passed. We're also seeing with our key allies, Canada and Mexico, our key trading partners. Mexico is our number one importer of Nebraska corn and Canada is our number one importer of Nebraska manufacturing goods. We have alienated and isolated our key trading partners by failing to move forward with NAFTA. We have the new agreement, USMCA, but the reality is it has to go through each one of our countries respective legislators, that’s not going to happen until 2019 and then the new agreement doesn’t go into effect until 2020. We need to have a senator that boldly loudly protect an defend our ag economy in our state of Nebraska and that’s what I intend to do from day 1.
Schultz: Well, i think the impact especially the tariffs and with especially the soy bean farmers, we're already seeing impacts. It's crazy that were actually having to borrow money from China to pay farmers because they cant sell their crops to China. It's just an insane situation that we've got. I think we need to straighten out our trade policies with all of our neighbors. We do need good strong trade policies with the world. But we are no longer living in a world where we can just sit there and say, "we are America and you have to come to us," because right now China has gone to Brazil for their soy bean purchases and its very likely that those markets are not going to come back for at least a generation.
Does more need to be done at the federal level to protect the rights of the LGBTQA community? Why or why not?
Raybould: We absolutely must stand up for those in our community, not only the LGBT community, but the Jewish community, people of every faith, the Muslim community, refugees in our state of Nebraska and unfortunately there are no state or federal guidelines protecting them. There are no work force protections and even in our public schools we need to stand up and make sure that we continue to help support programs for young people. I know that we need to have more behavioral health social workers in our schools. That is the number one thing that teachers have mentioned to me to help these young people to get through their difficult issues. They need to have a safe environment to be who they are growing up to be and it should be a tolerant accepting environment. I know on the Lincoln City Council. I am very proud to say that we passed a resolution last year challenging that hate has no place in our state. We must be a tolerant, accepting community welcoming the diversity of so many in our state. I pledge to be the senator for all people. My door will always be open. I am representing people that don’t only look like me or think like me but people who have different ideas, different view points. We must make sure that those young people in our community of all faiths, all ethnicities, all sexual preferences are protected. That is what I intend to do and make sure that we get a legislation passed on a federal level that puts in place work force protection.
Schultz: I think that we need to stop sillowing and tribalizing everything. You know, there are issues that are important to certain communities but those really are human rights issues. They are not issues specific to one group or another. I think that we really need to take a broad reaching overview. I do support marriage between any two consenting adults. It's none of the government’s and it’s none of my business who they are in love with and what they want to do with their lives
What can be done to sustain low unemployment and economic growth in America?
Raybould: Right now, we are seeing tremendous low unemployment and economic growth is critical. I am a proponent of tax cuts and tax reform that focuses on the middle class and small businesses. Middle class families why? Middle class families are the ones that if they have any tax cuts, tax breaks, they will pour that money right into the economy and be a great boost and a generator of additional economic growth. Small business why? If they should get tax breaks, tax cuts because they are the job creators. I am a business owner, a job creator myself and we know that those tax cuts for small businesses really are a boost to our economy but what we cant do in the United States is o give a tax cut, tax give away to the largest corporations and the wealthiest individuals and at a cost of about 1.8 trillion dollars. That is stealing from our children's future. We should be investing in our children's future. And we know the greatest economic growth mechanism would be to make sure middle class families have the tax cut and small businesses because that’s how we will really be able to continue to grow our economy and sustain a vibrant economy.
Schultz: I think one of the things we really need to do is get the government oversight and regulation at an appropriate level. Right now, there is just way to much interference and a lot of issues become bogged down in bureaucratic red tape. We need to free up entrepreneurs. One of the good examples, the rise of the gig economy, things like Uber and Airbnb. But we’ve got some cities now who are trying to crack down on those because their competing with the traditional hotel and taxi services. The government shouldn’t be in the process of picking winners and losers in those fields of new ways of doing business comes up. They should be allowed to pursue that and if that’s what the people want and that seems to be the way it is especially with the ride share things, the government shouldn’t be interfering with those and trying to squash the growth.