Patty Pansing Brooks
Candidate for Nebraska Representative in Congress, District 1
Tell us about yourself.
I am a state senator, attorney, small business owner, and lifelong community organizer. I was born and raised in Lincoln, Nebraska, where my family has lived for five generations. I graduated from Southeast High School, then received a B.A. in Political Science from Colorado College. I received my law degree at the University of Nebraska College of Law.
I live with my husband, Loel, in Lincoln, where we work together as law partners. We are longtime members of First-Plymouth Congregational Church, where we were married (as were my parents, Lu and Tom). We have three children, Taylor, Graham, and Avary, who have grown into bright, kind and civic-minded young adults who fill our hearts with blessings and joy every day!
Why are you running for this office?
I feel like I have been running to do good for Nebraska all of my adult life. After steering 56 of my bills into law in the Nebraska Legislature and tackling some of our state’s most important issues for children and working families, I know I have more to give – and I also know there is a lot more work to do. So the question is perhaps better stated: “How can I stop running?” I am running because I can’t possibly do anything but run. I look at what’s happening in Washington, and I think, “What are they doing? Why can’t they get things done? Where are all the problem solvers?” And I know I am not alone in feeling this way.
We need people in Washington who aren’t afraid to do the right thing, who don’t take directions from political parties or corporate PACS. Sadly, we have not had that kind of leadership under the current congressman.
And we need that leadership, because the best things happen when those in positions of power are willing to use that power for the common good.
What would be your top three priorities if elected?
As our congresswoman, I will work to make healthcare more affordable and accessible, help communities thrive by promoting workforce development, expand infrastructure, including critical broadband, to expand affordable housing and create a rural and urban economic renaissance for our entire state.
What relevant experience would you bring to the office?
I have a proven track record of values-led policymaking and coalition building to make positive change. I was the co-chair of the $6 million Union Plaza Fundraising Campaign to create Lincoln’s first urban park. I also served as co-chair of the $9.6 million Centennial Mall renovation project, which helped make the seven blocks between our Capitol and our state university a beautiful, historic celebration of Nebraska for all visitors. Finally, I was co-chair of the $250 million Lincoln Public Schools bond issue in 2007 with former Sen. and friend Kathy Campbell. That bond issue improved every school in every zip code in Lincoln.
In my two terms as a State Senator representing Nebraska’s 28th District, I have fought hard and achieved victories for our most vulnerable neighbors, particularly children. One focus of my legislative career has been youth justice reform. I introduced several bills that have expanded children’s rights to legal representation in the justice system, established automatic sealing of children’s court records when they have completed their sentences, and reoriented the purpose of school peacekeeping officers to keep schools safe while keeping kids out of the school-to-prison pipeline.
Additional legislative victories include protecting victims of human trafficking and enacting stricter punishment for people who benefit from trafficking; creating and leading the Whiteclay Public Health Emergency Task Force that ultimately stopped the abusive alcohol sales which had plagued Native Americans for generations and allowed the Oglala Sioux to reclaim sovereignty over their public health; protecting workers who discuss their wages from employer retaliation; codifying the Nebraska Department of Education’s definition of dyslexia as a learning disability, requiring schools to offer evidence-based reading support; and establishing Nebraska’s first officially recognized Indigenous People’s Day.
Statement on Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade
The U.S. Supreme Court made an unconscionable decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, giving the government the seat at our daughters’ exam tables for which many have long coveted. A majority of Americans and Nebraskans do not agree that abortion should be illegal. Tuesday’s special election will be our first opportunity to stand up and fight back at the ballot box against this extreme effort to push us back into the Dark Ages. My opponent doesn’t even support exceptions for rape or incest. The contrast and stakes are clear.
Nebraskans are paying more for food, gas and rent. How do you plan on addressing concerns over the rise in inflation?
One of the most immediate issues we need to address is inflation. The rising prices of goods and services are hurting families and small businesses. We need to lower prescription drug prices, lower premiums under the Affordable Care Act, continue to release petroleum reserves and stop price gouging. Other measures crucial to those struggling to get by include expanding Medicare to cover hearing, dental and vision. We also need student loan debt forgiveness so young people aren’t strapped for food, gas and rent. As a member of Congress, I will support measures to enhance rental assistance and ensure access, eligibility and funding for SNAP.
Federal lawmakers are poised to take up a bi-partisan gun reform bill, which could become the first major gun legislation in nearly 30 years. What type of gun reform measures would you support as a member of congress?
Enough is enough on this epidemic of mass shootings. It’s beyond time for meaningful gun reform measures to protect the public. When I get to Congress, I will support universal background checks, red flag laws, and age limits to purchase firearms, among other reform measures. I absolutely oppose arming teachers. I support the Second Amendment. I agree with conservative Justice Antonin Scalia who wrote in Columbia v. Heller, “Like most rights, the right secured by the Second Amendment is not unlimited.”
What is your message to Nebraska business owners who are dealing with supply chain issues and labor shortages?
We must do everything we can to repair our supply chains and infrastructure to ease bottlenecks. We also need to enhance efforts to recruit and retain workers to fill jobs. Nebraska’s unemployment rate is 2.2%, and it is always among the lowest in the nation, so employers were having problems filling vacancies even before the pandemic. We have to do everything we can ensuring Nebraska continues to be an attractive place to young people by creating a welcoming environment for everyone and making investments in job training so workers can fill the jobs that are available in our communities.
A recent Pew Research Poll found “strengthening the economy” should be the number one priority for the president and congress. How would you help make that happen?
Strengthening the economy is our No. 1 priority, and there are many things we can do to make that happen. Even though U.S. economic growth is gaining momentum and production is up, inflationary pressures are holding us back. We must take action to stop price gouging because people are struggling to make their paychecks go further. Critical measures like lowering the cost of prescription drugs, releasing petroleum reserves and lowering premiums under the ACA can also ease the squeeze and should be among our top priorities.
Do you believe Nebraska’s elections are free, fair and secure?
I have complete faith in our Nebraska elections. We must take every measure necessary to ensure that this remains the case, not only in Nebraska, but across the country. I believe Congress needs to take steps at the national level to protect future elections and ensure the right to vote for all of our citizens.
Is illegal immigration a problem? What changes to current policy would you propose?
We need comprehensive immigration reform that prioritizes border security, creates an earned pathway to citizenship, maintains families and helps grow our economy. I will support comprehensive immigration reform as a member of Congress and believe it’s long past time to set the politics aside on this issue and move forward on good, sound policy solutions.
Should any additional steps be taken by the federal government in response to the COVID-19 pandemic?
We have moved beyond the point at which Covid should disrupt our daily lives. This doesn’t mean the pandemic is over, but it does mean the availability of vaccines, boosters, treatments, tests and masks make this something we treat and protect against, rather than regard as a constant crisis. With that said, we must remain vigilant to anything that changes with the variants and rely on sound science to inform all of our decisions. If the pandemic taught us anything, it should be that these types of health crises must be taken seriously. As far as the federal government, it should continue to address the economic impacts we continue to feel as a result of the pandemic.
Do you support President Biden’s response to Russia’s attack on Ukraine? What other measures, if any, would you propose?
Vladmir Putin’s unprovoked attack on Ukraine is a heinous act. I believe the economic sanctions imposed by the U.S. and our NATO allies have been the appropriate response, and they have worked to inflict a cost on Russia for its acts of bloodshed and destruction. I believe we must continue these economic sanctions, work with our allies and keep the avenue open for diplomacy, even as we stand firm in defense of our NATO allies.