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Lincoln City Councilwoman Jane Raybould said Nebraskans from across the state tell her they are ready to push Washington, D.C., in a new direction.

Voters of all backgrounds and beliefs, from Gothenburg, Norfolk, Boone County and beyond, tell the Democratic nominee for the U.S. Senate they're tired of partisan politics.

Raybould, who helps run her family's chain of grocery stores, said that's where she differs from her opponent, incumbent Sen. Deb Fischer, a Republican in a Republican-majority Congress.

"Nebraskans deserve a senator who is going to approach each and every issue with an open mind and independent analysis," Raybould said, "not just vote along party lines, doing what the party bosses want to do."

It's in that message Raybould has launched a prolonged, blunt assault on Fischer's record through campaign ads and stops across the state, cutting a clear contrast in the process.

Growing disillusionment with "a broken Washington" and rising energy among Nebraskans who are now "motivated to step up and speak out" has helped Raybould's message stick, she said.

Nebraskans are disappointed in Fischer's votes to cut funding from Medicare, as well as to privatize Social Security, while others are dismayed Fischer, a member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, let the farm bill expire.

With its lapse, funding to rural communities and businesses was eliminated, and funding to grow trade opportunities for Nebraskans evaporated along with nearly 40 other programs, Raybould said.

Fischer and other Republicans have also failed to check President Donald Trump's actions on trade, Raybould said, resulting in retaliatory tariffs from traditional trading partners and allies in North America and Europe, and throttled trade with China, one of the biggest buyers of Nebraska agricultural products.

In her travels around the state, Raybould said farmers describe how they are feeling the pinch. Already facing tight profit margins as commodity prices have plummeted over the past few years, many fear depressed grain and livestock prices and a lack of buyers may put them out of business.

Raybould said while Fischer boasts of speaking regularly with Trump and communicating the need for trade deals to be reached, Raybould said she has not gone far enough.

"Farmers are dumbfounded that Sen. Fischer is not willing to challenge the administration on this trade policy," Raybould said, adding Fischer could sponsor or co-sign legislation that would give the Senate authority to oversee the tariffs.

Other industries in Nebraska are also sharing concerns with Raybould, such as manufacturing companies and farm-implement fabricators, who said the tariffs on aluminum and steel have forced them to raise prices on their products — by as much as 20 percent on some — adding further strain on farmers' pocketbooks.

Raybould said she sees the trade war's impacts in her own business as well, as tariffs threaten to raise the prices at grocery stores and restaurants. She likened the increases to a tax hike on Nebraskans that Fischer has done nothing to stop.

"It's really a crisis and she is not doing everything she can to influence the situation," she added.

A former Democratic candidate for lieutenant governor, Raybould said her previous campaigning around the state in 2014 drew little attention or enthusiasm.

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Now, despite carrying a "D" behind her name in overwhelmingly red areas of the state, and in some places Fischer won in a landslide six years ago when she was first elected to the Senate, Raybould senses something has changed.

Republican farmers, distraught over how Washington has forgotten them, have asked to volunteer for the Raybould campaign alongside Democrats and independents.

Just more than $1 million of the $1.2 million the Raybould campaign has raised in this election cycle, according to Federal Election Commission filings, has come in small donations from 20,000 individual contributors, many through Act Blue, which directs funds to Democratic candidates all over the country.

Raybould said the majority of those donations are from Nebraskans, adding that her signing a pledge to not accept donations from political-action committees or corporate interests has won her additional support.

"People want someone who cares more about the country's future than re-election," she said.

If elected, Raybould said she'll introduce legislation preventing senators from accepting campaign contributions from corporations or industries where they have oversight, so Americans "know that their elected official represents them and not their corporate contributors."

She said she'll wield that energy and a desire to get results as an independent senator on behalf of all Nebraskans in Washington, sitting down with Republicans and Democrats alike to build solutions from common ground.

"I have always demonstrated that I'm an independent-minded business leader and a pragmatist," she said. "I will put my constituents first like I put our customers first. I want to be that senator that is going to work with Republican senators to solve a problem."

Reach the writer at 402-473-7120 or cdunker@journalstar.com.

On Twitter @ChrisDunkerLJS.

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Higher education reporter

Chris Dunker covers higher education, state government and the intersection of both.

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