Shane Osborn's 2014 Senate campaign is airborne, bearing a message of fiscal restraint and debt reduction, and staffed by a veteran crew.
Osborn, Nebraska's former state treasurer, will formally launch his Republican Senate campaign with an announcement in Grand Island on Thursday, but he has been campaigning for a month and just added arguably Nebraska's most sought-after GOP fundraiser to his campaign team.
Dean Dennhardt, who has been Gov. Dave Heineman's fundraiser, bears a list of 6,000 names of contributors to the governor's political campaigns and activities.
Already on board as campaign manager is Dave Boomer, who previously guided Rep. Lee Terry's successful re-election campaigns in metropolitan Omaha's swing congressional district.
During an interview Wednesday in Lincoln, Osborn said he already has embarked on a full-time campaign. It clearly is placing early emphasis on western and central Nebraska, the vote-rich Republican stronghold that traditionally dominates statewide GOP primary elections.
Osborn lives in Omaha, but grew up in Norfolk, and he is best-known as the pilot who guided a crippled Navy surveillance aircraft and its 23-member crew to a safe landing on a Chinese island in 2001.
The Chinese held Osborn and his crew for 12 days. They returned to a hero's welcome at Whidbey Island Naval Air Station in Washington state in the glare of live network TV coverage.
Two members of that crew will join Osborn at his announcement event in Veterans Memorial Park in Grand Island.
If he is elected next year, Osborn said, he'd be the first post-9/11 combat veteran to serve in the Senate. The number of senators who are military veterans will drop to 13 with retirements at the end of next year.
Osborn served one term as state treasurer from 2007 to 2011 before moving into the private sector in Omaha, where he has been engaged in a number of ventures, including a new small business that helps create employment opportunities for veterans with disabilities.
As treasurer, Osborn said, he cut the office budget by 12 percent over four years and provided taxpayers with unprecedented state government transparency online.
"I actually shrank government," Osborn said, "while improving performance."
And he would be committed to taming federal spending, shrinking annual budget deficits and tackling the national debt if he is elected to the Senate, he said.
"I am a conservative across the board," Osborn said. "And I would put the interests of my country far above politics and a political career.
"We shouldn't just throw bombs at the other side," he said. "Both parties are responsible for this fiscal mess."
"I am focused on more than my military history," Osborn said, "although it does tell people something about me," including the fact that "I did not break under extreme pressure" during intense Chinese interrogation and intimidation while he was in captivity.
Osborn said he believes Obamacare, the health care reform law, should be repealed, but Republicans should bear the obligation of proposing a better option.
"Republicans can't be a no-party," he said.
Immigration reform should begin with strict border control and improvement of the system that processes legal immigrants, Osborn said. Providing a pathway to citizenship for immigrants illegally settled in the United States is not an option that should be considered at this point, he said.
"First, we have to stop the bleeding," he said.
Osborn said he would be an advocate for a strong national defense.
"But, as a veteran, I would be very hesitant to go to war unless we absolutely have to," he said.
"While I will be hawkish on defense, I believe we need to take a very measured approach before we would push Americans into harm's way."