Nebraska's 1st District congressional candidates engaged Sunday night in their only televised debate with Sen. Patty Pansing Brooks of Lincoln and Sen. Mike Flood of Norfolk delivering familiar campaign messages.
Arguing that soaring gasoline prices and runaway inflation reflect perhaps "the biggest issue" in the battle for eastern Nebraska's 1st District House seat, Flood said voters need to "end the one-party rule of Joe Biden and Nancy Pelosi" while striving for energy independence along with adoption of "common sense, conservative values" that he supports as the Republican nominee.
Pansing Brooks, the Democratic nominee, said she would "work across the aisle" in the House of Representatives in an effort to find bipartisan solutions to issues like inflation, gun violence and energy independence.
"We have to come together," she said, and she "would try to find common ground" in the divided House.
The candidates, chosen by party leaders to compete in a special election on June 28 to determine who will serve the final six months of former Rep. Jeff Fortenberry's ninth term in the House, met for the televised debate at KETV studios in Omaha.
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Fortenberry resigned from his House seat when he was convicted of charges that he lied to federal officials about an illegal foreign contribution to his 2016 reelection campaign.
Flood and Pansing Brooks will be matched against one another again in the November general election after winning party nominations in the May primary election to serve a new two-year term beginning in January.
The debate centered at the outset on differences about gun control proposals in the wake of the most recent outbreak of mass shootings that killed 19 students and two teachers in Texas and 10 people at a grocery market in New York.
Pansing Brooks said she supports the relatively modest gun restrictions tentatively agreed to by a bipartisan group of senators, but said she would "totally support more restrictions," including universal gun purchase background checks and the possibility of "getting rid of military-style weapons."
Flood said he supports enhanced school safety, including the arming of teachers if local school boards determine that is needed, along with expansion of mental health services, but he would not support proposals that would "infringe on the 2nd Amendment rights of law-abiding citizens."
Arming teachers and creating "a war zone in the schools is not the solution," Pansing Brooks said.
Flood said voters need to "end the one-party control of Joe Biden and Nancy Pelosi" in Washington.
"America is on the wrong path," he said.
"Finger-pointing about one-party rule" is not the path to progress, Pansing Brooks said. "The best ideas come when we come together."
Both candidates said Congress needs to protect Social Security and Medicare funding as the programs encounter fiscal stress and both centered on the need for workforce development in Nebraska.
"It's the No. 1 issue in Nebraska," Pansing Brooks said. And part of the solution, she said, is being "a welcoming state" that is not discriminatory.
"Young people want to live in Nebraska," Flood said. "We need to create opportunities."
Flood pointed to his role as a member of the Legislature's Revenue Committee in helping lead the way for passage of the largest tax cut in state history earlier this year.
Pansing Brooks said she has been a leader in protecting needed services for Nebraskans as a member of the Legislature.
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