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Jane Raybould moves into the general election phase of her Senate campaign with a carefully honed message of open-minded and independent judgment that would focus on Nebraska's interests rather than allegiance to party, political dogma or party leadership.

Nebraska's Democratic Senate nominee pledges protection of Medicare and Social Security, defense of public education, expansion of trade opportunities and "common-sense gun safety measures" that include the reinstatement of an assault weapons ban.

Raybould, a member of the Lincoln City Council and former Lancaster County Board member, announced her candidacy nine months ago and is matched against Republican Sen. Deb Fischer, who is seeking re-election to a second term.

Fischer, she says, has "stopped listening to her constituents" after six years in the Senate and has been "a very ineffective leader on agriculture issues."

Nebraska's senior senator has "voted for tax cuts for the largest corporations" in a tax reform bill that will lead to an additional $1 trillion of national debt and has supported a budget resolution that envisions $500 billion in cuts to Medicare over the next 10 years, Raybould said.

Raybould sat down Tuesday in the Haymarket for an extensive interview outlining her campaign message, which includes not only a focus on issues but also what clearly is going to be a sharp attack on Fischer's performance.

"She is beholden to special interests," Raybould said.

Health care coverage and costs are a major concern for Nebraskans, she said, with Medicare funding and the high cost of prescription drugs high on their list.

Protection of Social Security also is a priority in a state with an aging population, she said.

Fischer's vote to confirm Betsy DeVos, "a grossly unqualified" nominee for U.S. secretary of education, demonstrated a lack of commitment to public education, Raybould said.

Raybould said "common-sense gun safety measures" can be enacted while still protecting Second Amendment gun rights and those changes should include "closing loopholes" in background checks and online purchases.

School safety has become "a profound issue" that needs to be addressed now, she said. 

The administration "needs to re-engage" in the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement that it abandoned shortly after President Donald Trump assumed office, Raybould said.

And it needs to resolve the ongoing renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement with Canada and Mexico, she said.

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As a grocer, Raybould said, she knows what Nebraska farmers and manufacturers already know: "I always want more trading partners, more customers."

Raybould helps manage B&R Stores, a family business that includes Super Saver stores and Russ's Markets. 

"I want to make sure to be a voice for Nebraskans' concerns," Raybould said. "I'm ready to roll up my sleeves."

If elected, she said, she would be eager to work with Trump on expanded trade, as well as efforts to tackle "government overreach and overregulation."

Although she recognizes that her journey is uphill — probably steeply uphill after a decade of statewide Republican dominance — Raybould appears to have entered the final six-month drive to November full of determination with a crowded schedule ahead.  

"If we can get Scott Frost to come back," she says, "there's no reason" this can't be done.

Reach the writer at 402-473-7248 or dwalton@journalstar.com.

On Twitter @LJSDon.

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Political reporter

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

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