For Dennis Crawford, the stakes for middle class Nebraska citizens have never been higher, with the economy tilted against them by the “donor class” that dominates politics.
That’s why he’s ready to take another run at unseating Republican Congressman Jeff Fortenberry from the District 1 seat.
Crawford was Fortenberry's Democratic opponent the 2014 election, capturing 31 percent of the vote. He sat out the 2016 election. He said he hopes to get acquainted with voters again by visiting towns across the district.
He will soon file for the upcoming primary, hoping to increase the appeal to those who didn’t vote in recent elections and to disaffected voters.
“We will reach out to all the Republicans who are disappointed by the broken promises of Fortenberry and Trump,” said Crawford, 57, a lawyer and lifelong resident of Lincoln.
At the top of Crawford’s issue list is his support for keeping the parts of the Affordable Care Act that are working and fixing those that don’t work so well.
Healthcare is a right, he said, and isn’t just for those who can afford it. As an attorney who represents people who are injured, he said he sees firsthand the challenges of those who don’t have access to health insurance. The recent attempts by congressional Republicans to repeal ACA sparked his campaign.
“Fortenberry voted for Trumpcare in May and I was compelled to run again in June,” Crawford said.
He supports raising the minimum wage to $11 per hour and then adjusting it for inflation.
His other main issues are economy related. While some disagree that climate change is not real, or that if it is real, it represents an economic disaster, Crawford said that Nebraska should develop alternative energy sources.
“I think that the global warming crisis creates a real opportunity for economic growth,” he said.
Along similar lines, Crawford points out that the American Society of Civil Engineers has given the nation’s infrastructure –roads, bridges and electric grid – a near failing grade. Americans are paying for poor infrastructure on car repairs, wasted time and increased cost of goods, the Society pointed out.
Both infrastructure projects and alternative energy development would “create jobs with good wages and decent benefits,” Crawford said.
He likened the nation’s current challenges to the 1960s when leaders aimed for a mission to put a man on the moon. They also looked for solutions to address poverty.
“We need to think big again. I think renewable energy is one of those areas,” he said.
Crawford said he’s concerned that the Nebraska delegation supports the de-regulation of Wall Street and the banking industry. Lax financial regulations helped to create the 2008 recession, just as they did the 1980s savings and loan collapse, he said.
“They wrecked the economy in 2008 and they’d wreck it again,” he said.
Asked about his stance on abortion and the challenge it presents in a state where pro-life Republicans outnumber Democrats, Crawford said he is prepared to discuss his stance.
“Here is the way I see it. I trust women to make their health care choices, rather than politicians, bureaucrats and judges,” he said. “I am personally opposed to abortion. I’d like to see fewer abortions. The question is how do we get there? I’d push to make sex education and birth control available to more people.”
He acknowledged that some voters may oppose him on that stance.
“This is my message. Maybe we disagree, but we have the debate. We disagree on how we get there,” he said.
Asked about the issue of poverty among the working poor in Nebraska, he said the economy is a driving factor.
“The way you strengthen families is better access to health care, better jobs and higher wages,” he said.
Crawford said he also supports universal pre-kindergarten, free college for children of middle class families, and the ability of college graduates to renegotiate their student loans.
Crawford and his wife Diane live in Lincoln and have three grown children. He received his Bachelor of Arts degree from Creighton University and his law degree from Catholic University in Washington D.C. before returning to Lincoln to practice law.
Crawford has been active in the Nebraska Association of Trial Attorneys – serving on its board of directors, political action committee and legislative committee.