Bob Kerrey and Deb Fischer will take their nationally significant Senate clash to the Nebraska State Fair on the last Saturday in August.

Fischer has accepted an invitation to debate Kerrey at the new fairgrounds in Grand Island on Aug. 25, pending agreement on details about the proceedings. Kerrey earlier signed on to the event.

Word that Fischer, the Republican nominee, will debate the former two-term Democratic senator came as the critical Nebraska Senate race began heating up with new TV attack ads directed at Kerrey by a super PAC and Kerrey's response tying Fischer to wealthy special interests.

Both sides have opened up with early artillery fire, signaling the likelihood there will be no summer respite before the autumn campaign. 

"We will debate Bob Kerrey," Fischer campaign manager Aaron Trost said Thursday, but he attached no number to the debates. Kerrey has proposed seven before the Nov. 6 election. 

Americans for Prosperity, a super PAC funded by the industrialist Koch Brothers, is airing a new TV ad slamming Kerrey for suggesting that some targeted tax increases would need to be included along with spending cuts to craft an effective bipartisan deficit reduction plan.

Responding to the ads, which portray tax hikes on families and retired people, Kerrey campaign manager Paul Johnson said Kerrey "actually supports tax cuts for middle-class Nebraskans, including a proposal for a 2 percent cut in the payroll tax."

What Kerrey proposes, he said, is increased taxes on "billionaires like the Koch Brothers" as part of a compromise solution to achieve fiscal stability and debt reduction.

In a new fundraising appeal, Kerrey said the Koch Brothers already have spent more than $1 million to oppose him with five months to go.

AFP state Director Brad Stevens said Kerrey "seems to have forgotten Nebraska common sense (because) we understand the debt is due to government spending more than it takes in."

The solution is "not giving the government more money to spend," he said. "The solution is to cut spending."

Johnson said the Koch Brothers know that Kerrey is serious about crafting a solution to eliminate federal budget deficits and "they are shaking in their Prada shoes."

The attack ads are "outright lies," he said, delivering a message that suggests Kerrey supports across-the-board tax increases when he does not.

Johnson said Fischer has signed anti-tax advocate Grover Norquist's pledge not to vote for any tax increases, thus "removing herself from any serious attempts to solve our nation's $1.1 trillion deficit."

Kerrey issued a brief statement expressing his "disappointment that (Fischer) chose to attend fundraisers in Washington, D.C." rather than join him in a debate at Boys State and Girls State in Lincoln this week. When the debate failed to materialize, Kerrey did a question-and-answer session with the high school students Tuesday night.

Trost said Fischer looks forward to debates with Kerrey.

"(They will) highlight the differences between (Fischer's) philosophy of cutting taxes, supporting a balanced budget amendment and opposing Obamacare, and Bob Kerrey's record of raising taxes, opposing a balanced budget amendment and supporting Obamacare," he said.

Firing back at criticism of Fischer's fundraising in Washington, Trost said Kerrey is funding his campaign through "a network of liberal donors across the nation." 

Just last week, he said, Kerrey was in San Francisco at "a lavish fundraiser with liberal Democrats."

Reach Don Walton at 402-473-7248 or at


Don Walton, a Husker and Yankee fan, is a longtime Journal Star political and government reporter.

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