LINCOLN — Lincoln City Councilwoman Jane Raybould emerged Thursday as the leading Democratic challenger to Republican Sen. Deb Fischer in 2018 with a pledge to be "an independent voice" in Washington determined to seek bipartisan solutions to the nation's challenges.
"People are sick and tired of all the divisive partisan battles" in Washington that leave huge issues such as health care and retirement security unresolved, Raybould said in announcing that she has decided to enter next year's Senate race.
Raybould said she would fight for Nebraska's interests, with a strong recognition of how vital trade is for the state's economy, including Nebraska's stressed agricultural sector.
"I want to be on the Senate Agriculture Committee," she said, positioned to help protect and advance the interests of what she described as "the economic engine of our state."
Neither Fischer nor Sen. Ben Sasse serves on the Agriculture Committee, Raybould noted.
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As Congress begins to pivot toward tax reform, Raybould said, it will be important to make sure that "those who are the wealthiest pay their fair share (and) that we never ever move the tax burden onto the backs of low-income Americans."
Raybould is vice president and director of buildings and equipment at B&R Stores, which owns Russ's Market and Super Saver grocery stores.
A former Lancaster County commissioner, she was elected to a four-year term on the city council in 2015. Raybould was Democratic gubernatorial nominee Chuck Hassebrook's running mate for lieutenant governor in 2014.
Fischer, who will be seeking her second term next year, was elected in 2012, defeating Democratic nominee Bob Kerrey, Nebraska's former governor and former two-term U.S. senator.
"As a business owner, job creator, public servant, wife and mom with two great kids, I truly believe America only succeeds when all of us succeed," Raybould said.
Recognizing her path will be uphill in a state that has not elected a Democrat to the Senate since Sen. Ben Nelson was re-elected in 2006, Raybould said: "I love a challenge. I love a good fight; I am a fighter."
An avid cyclist, Raybould said she hopes to do some campaigning on her bicycle.
Nebraskans need assurance that Social Security and Medicare are going to be protected along with access to affordable health care, she said.
The Affordable Care Act should be repaired, not repealed, she said.
"Senator Fischer voted strictly along party lines on that issue regardless of how many Nebraskans would be impacted," Raybould said.
"Millions of Americans would lose their health care," she said. "That does not represent Nebraska. We need collective, bipartisan solutions to do some fixes and stabilize the insurance market."
While expressing concern about President Donald Trump's position on trade — the president this week said he "probably" will withdraw the United States from the North American Free Trade Agreement — Raybould praised Republican Gov. Pete Ricketts for traveling to Canada to reinforce his commitment to NAFTA.
"I would like to see the governor travel down to Mexico next and make the same assurances," she said.
Touching on immigration issues, Raybould expressed support for continued protections for the so-called DACA youths who were brought to the United States as babies or young children when their parents or other adults entered the country illegally.
Those young people have been accorded legal presence to remain in the United States by former President Barack Obama's Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals executive action. So far, Trump has resisted calls to rescind DACA.
"These children have grown up in our state," Raybould said.
"We have made a tremendous investment in them. We want them here.
"They are Nebraskans and they are an educated and valuable part of our future."