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A GUIDE TO THE CONGRESSIONAL RACES: NEBRASKA

9 minute read
TIME

NEBRASKA

Population (1994): 1,623,000 (up 2.8% from 1990), 0.6% of U.S. total

Voting-age population: 1,192,000; 1994 turnout, 48%

Median age: 33 years

Median household income: $31,794 ($470 below U.S. median)

Unemployment: 2.7% (2.9% below U.S. average, March 1996)

Last presidential election: Clinton (D): 29% Bush (R): 47% Perot (I): 24%

Congressional delegation: Two Democrats, three Republicans

It became a state in 1867, the 37th, and Nebraska has remained a wide-open, Great Plains region ever since, with a unicameral legislative body composed of 49 nonpartisan Senators. For half a century, Nebraska has been one of the most Republican states in presidential elections–and has had three Republican U.S. Representatives since the 1960s–but has kept both its Senators Democrat. With James Exon retiring, however, that could change. In a state that is the world’s best place to make a living by phone (a telemarketer’s haven) and the birthplace of both Johnny Carson and Malcolm X–well, there’s more than goldenrod and corn to be picked here.

CHUCK HAGEL (R) SENATE (open seat)

BORN: Oct. 4, 1946, North Platte EDUCATION: U of Nebraska, Omaha, B.A., 1971 FAMILY: Wife, Lilibet; two children RELIGION: Episcopalian MILITARY: Army, 1967-68 OCCUPATION: Investment-bank executive POLITICAL CAREER: None ADDRESS: 12100 West Center Road, Suite 202, Omaha 68144. Tel.: 402-399-9996

The Republicans would love to get this Senate seat. James Exon, the Democratic incumbent, is retiring after 18 years, and even Bob Dole has paid a neighborly visit to score some points for Hagel with the electorate. In a state where most voters are Republican, Hagel’s challenge is to win back party members who helped give Ben Nelson two gubernatorial victories.

THE ISSUES

Budget YES Medicare NO Defense YES Abortion NO Guns NR Gays NO Bosnia YES NAFTA YES Welfare NO National Service NO (For an explanation of these issues, see the front of this guide.)

QUOTE OF NOTE: “I’ll continue to talk about the things that I think are important to our nation and our country, like cutting the size and scope of our government…We must get government out of our lives. We want people who want to change the country.”

BEN NELSON (D) SENATE (open seat)

BORN: May 17, 1941, McCook EDUCATION: U of Nebraska, B.A., 1963, M.A., 1965, J.D., 1970 FAMILY: Wife, Diane; four children RELIGION: Methodist MILITARY: None OCCUPATION: Lawyer POLITICAL CAREER: Nebraska director of insurance, 1975-76, Governor, 1991- ADDRESS: 2912 South 84th Street, Suite B, Omaha 68124. Tel.: 402-343-1006

Nelson is another of the Midwestern Democrats who enjoy broad bipartisan support–so much so that Cornhuskers made him their first re-elected Governor in two decades. He says his experience as a successful state administrator, creating programs in health policy and rural development, would serve him well in the Senate, where his priorities would be education, the environment and the economy.

THE ISSUES

Budget NO Medicare NR Defense YES Abortion NO Guns NR Gays NO Bosnia NO NAFTA YES Welfare NR National Service NO (For an explanation of these issues, see the front of this guide.)

QUOTE OF NOTE: “I will take to Washington a strong, independent voice and a good solid dose of Nebraska common sense and fiscal conservatism.”

DOUG BEREUTER (R) District 1 (East–Lincoln; Norfolk)

BORN: Oct. 6, 1939, York EDUCATION: U of Nebraska, B.A., 1961; Harvard U, M.C.P., 1966, M.P.A., 1973 FAMILY: Wife, Louise; two children RELIGION: Lutheran MILITARY: Army, 1963-65 OCCUPATION: Urban planner POLITICAL CAREER: Nebraska Legislature, 1975-79; U.S. House, 1978- ADDRESS: P.O. Box 94794, Lincoln 68509. Tel.: 402-483-1660

Bereuter, a city planner by training, developed a keen interest in foreign affairs in the House, and his constituents have supported that enthusiasm by returning him to office eight times with at least 60% of the vote. With his colleagues as well Bereuter has made a name for himself in business and foreign affairs, supporting NAFTA and GATT, but speaking out against U.S. involvement in Bosnia and Somalia.

THE ISSUES

Budget YES Medicare YES Defense YES Abortion YES Guns NO Gays YES Bosnia YES NAFTA YES Welfare YES Medical Leave NO (For an explanation of these issues, see the front of this guide.)

QUOTE OF NOTE: “This is not a banana republic. In order for foreign policy to be sustainable over the long run, it must be supported by the American people and the Congress of the United States.”

PATRICK COMBS (D) District 1

BORN: Sept. 7, 1965, Lincoln EDUCATION: U of Nebraska, B.A., 1988 FAMILY: Single RELIGION: Christian MILITARY: None OCCUPATION: Radio-station operations director POLITICAL CAREER: Democratic nominee for U.S. House, 1994 ADDRESS: P.O. Box 83281, 226 South 16th Street, Lincoln 68501. Tel.: 402-476-8683

Combs is the Young Turk who in 1994 tried unsuccessfully to unseat his established opponent. He’s back, using this year’s new Democratic agenda to try to bridge the gap to middle-class Republican voters: the budget must be balanced, but not at the expense of job security, health care and a first-rate education for everyone. Combs, who ran five radio stations and was a radio-talk-show host, feels his name recognition has improved enough in the past year to give him a shot in a race where he’s still an underdog.

THE ISSUES

Budget NR Medicare NR Defense YES Abortion NO Guns YES Gays YES Bosnia NO NAFTA NO Welfare YES Medical Leave YES (For an explanation of these issues, see the front of this guide.)

QUOTE OF NOTE: “I have also seen your hope–the hope that together we can make our nation great again. It is time to rebuild our country and energize our people.”

JON CHRISTENSEN (R) District 2 (East–Omaha; Sarpy County suburbs)

BORN: Feb. 20, 1963, St. Paul, Neb. EDUCATION: Midland Lutheran College, B.A., 1985; South Texas College, J.D., 1989 FAMILY: Divorced RELIGION: Christian Missionary Alliance MILITARY: None OCCUPATION: Insurance agent POLITICAL CAREER: U.S. House, 1994- ADDRESS: P.O. Box 540621, Omaha 68154. Tel.: 402-391-5311

Christensen beat three-term Democrat Peter Hoagland in 1994 with 51% of the vote, and this year has fought a spirited re-election fight to hold on to this Democratic district. He appeals to Nebraskans with a platform of family values and the promise of tax relief, but with crime the No. 1 voter concern, he is also talking tough about bad guys.

THE ISSUES

Budget YES Medicare YES Defense YES Abortion YES Guns NO Gays NO Bosnia YES NAFTA YES Welfare YES Medical Leave NO (For an explanation of these issues, see the front of this guide.)

QUOTE OF NOTE: “We are tired of our kids being afraid to walk to school alone…of illegal drugs that are poisoning our youth…of slick criminal-defense lawyers pushing criminals to freedom through legal loopholes…of seeing our prisoners treated better than the working men and women of this country.”

JAMES DAVIS (D) District 2

BORN: Nov. 30, 1945, Omaha EDUCATION: U of Nebraska, B.A., 1967; Indiana U, J.D., 1975 FAMILY: Wife Polo; one child RELIGION: Roman Catholic MILITARY: Army, 1968-70 OCCUPATION: Lawyer; deputy city prosecutor; Secret Service agent POLITICAL CAREER: None ADDRESS: 980 South 72nd Street, Omaha 68114. Tel.: 402-397-7480

Earlier this year Davis and his wife lost their only son tragically in an auto accident, but the candidate remained in the race. A Vietnam vet, in a district that’s home to Offutt Air Force Base, he campaigns with the slogan “Helping Those Who Have Helped America.” But the Second is an unpredictable district–once Democratic, now Republican–and Davis has a platform that seems to straddle the ideological fence: he wants less government and supports the death penalty, but would preserve Medicare funds and student loans.

THE ISSUES

Budget NO Medicare NO Defense YES Abortion YES Guns YES Gays NO Bosnia NO NAFTA NO Welfare YES Medical Leave YES (For an explanation of these issues, see the front of this guide.)

QUOTE OF NOTE: “Society has a moral responsibility to lend a helping hand, but we also have to know when to let go.”

BILL BARRETT (R) District 3 (Rural west–Grand Island; North Platte)

BORN: Feb. 9, 1929, Lexington EDUCATION: Hastings College, B.A., 1951 FAMILY: Wife, Elsie; four children RELIGION: Presbyterian MILITARY: Navy, 1951-52 OCCUPATION: Real estate and insurance broker POLITICAL CAREER: Nebraska legislature, 1979-90; U.S. House, 1990- ADDRESS: P.O. Box 176, Grand Island 68802. Tel.: 308-381-7552

The Third is flat, crop-growing Republican country, where Ross Perot gets more votes than Bill Clinton. Barrett won his past two elections handily (in fact, for a while it looked as if he would run unopposed). In this district, where sugar beets are king, Barrett fights for anything that will help farmers (he chairs the General Farm Commodities Subcommittee) and against anything that will hurt them–most recently, the 1997 budget, which would have cut federal spending on agriculture by millions of dollars.

THE ISSUES

Budget YES Medicare YES Defense YES Abortion YES Guns NO Gays YES Bosnia YES NAFTA YES Welfare YES Medical Leave NO (For an explanation of these issues, see the front of this guide.)

QUOTE OF NOTE: “I’m outraged that some members of Congress want to bludgeon agriculture with further budget cuts.”

JOHN WEBSTER (D) District 3

BORN: Oct. 28, 1935, Gibbon EDUCATION: U of Nebraska at Kearney, 1958 FAMILY: Wife, Mary Ann; four children RELIGION: Catholic MILITARY: Army, 1955-1956 OCCUPATION: Farmer POLITICAL CAREER: Wood River city council, 1980-1987 ADDRESS: 217 West Second, Grand Island 68801. Tel.: 308-384-8015

Webster is a latecomer to this race. Asked to run by his friend Senator Bob Kerry (D-Neb.) in February, Webster declined, citing his upset over his mother’s death. But he changed his mind this summer and got onto the ballot. The Republicans, unexpectedly opposed, contested the late-blooming Webster’s candidacy–but lost. Webster, a farmer for 40 years, wants government-backed loans for farmers and a new war on drugs.

THE ISSUES

Budget NO Medicare NO Defense YES Abortion YES Guns YES Gays NO Bosnia NO NAFTA NO Welfare YES Medical Leave YES (For an explanation of these issues, see the front of this guide.)

QUOTE OF NOTE: “A farmer has not been elected to Congress in this state since 1963. We feel it is time that agriculture be represented in Nebraska.”

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