Nebraska's Republican Senate candidates on Tuesday stepped up their assault on federal regulations while pledging to work to get the government out of the way of small-business owners.
Their pro-business, anti-big-government message was delivered to members of the Lincoln Independent Business Association, which hosted a luncheon forum featuring four of the five GOP Senate candidates.
Although their remarks differed more in tone than in substance and adhered to a two-question format arranged by LIBA, most of the candidates managed to get in an indirect swipe or two at one or more opponents.
State Treasurer Don Stenberg said he's "not a pretend conservative (who) flip-flops on issues," and he's willing to pledge to serve no more than two terms. All of that was aimed at Attorney General Jon Bruning.
State Sen. Deb Fischer of Valentine declared: "You can't count on the same politicians to give us anything different. I'm not your typical career politician."
That volley landed in the court of both Stenberg and Bruning.
So did this shot from Pat Flynn of Schuyler: "We've tried all the career politicians."
More pointedly, Flynn asked "how we been doing in this state?" in terms of the attorney general addressing the problems of illegal immigration.
Bruning, for his part, soared above the fray as the presumed frontrunner.
"Rule after rule after rule makes it harder for you to succeed," the attorney general told the small-business audience.
Bruning noted he is "leading the charge against Obamacare" as one of the attorneys general who is challenging the health care reform law in a case that has reached the U.S. Supreme Court.
If he's elected and goes to the Senate next year, Bruning said, "you know I'm not going to be a shrinking violet."
Fischer pointed to her legislative successes, including the 2011 roads funding bill that will accelerate highway construction across the state, and suggested she is willing to "think outside the box" in resolving issues.
For instance, she said, she believes health care should move beyond the fee-for-service model to consider "a value-based system for outcome."
Stenberg said he would propose repeal of every major new regulation adopted by the Obama administration and introduce legislation to require congressional approval of new regulations.
Flynn said he'd refuse to vote to raise the national debt ceiling any higher while proposing a 30 percent reduction in federal spending along with repeal of financial and consumer protection reforms.
Spencer Zimmerman of Omaha, the fifth Republican candidate, was unable to attend the forum.