AP NEWS

Health care tops agendas of two Democrats hoping to challenge GOP Rep. Jeff Fortenberry

March 24, 2018 GMT

WASHINGTON — The two Lincoln Democrats seeking to challenge incumbent Republican Rep. Jeff Fortenberry in Nebraska’s 1st Congressional District have the same item atop their agendas — health care.

Personal injury lawyer Dennis Crawford touts the detail of his proposals and his years of doggedly calling out Fortenberry on an array of issues, while regulatory compliance specialist Jessica McClure casts herself as a fresh face who brings the perspective of a working mom.

There’s little daylight between the two on actual policy.

Both are critical of Republican measures to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. Crawford said ACA exchanges have too few options as a result of GOP actions. McClure says the issue is particularly personal for her since her daughter was diagnosed with eosinophilic esophagitis and will now have a pre-existing condition for the rest of her life.

Both say they favor a way for the public to buy into Medicare and support eventually going to some version of a Medicare-for-all system.

They are both sharply critical of the Republican overhaul of the tax code, saying they would repeal its cuts for higher-income individuals. Asked about a dividing line, Crawford threw out $200,000 and McClure, $250,000.

McClure would repeal the measure’s corporate tax cuts, while Crawford said he would simplify the corporate tax code but do it in such a way that corporations pay more to the government.

[More: Republican senators from Nebraska and Iowa hail tax overhaul ]

They both favor congressional action to address gun violence.

Crawford said he wants to reinstate the assault weapons ban, improve background checks, raise the age of purchase to 21, limit both the capacity of magazines and how many guns one person can buy and have waiting periods.

McClure said she wants to “open up liability” for manufacturers and prevent dangerous individuals from owning guns. She questioned why anyone would need an assault weapon but said she understands that a lot of Nebraskans own such guns and use them responsibly.

Crawford, who lost to Fortenberry in 2014, is a prolific blogger who beats the drum for his ideas by posting online.

“I believe I have the most detailed platform of any Democratic candidate running for Congress in Nebraska this cycle at this point in time,” he said.

McClure started out as a chemist before going into the regulatory compliance field. She says that her expertise in regulations would help her and that her science background helps her cut through the rhetoric.

“I’m a scientist, not a career politician,” she said.

The 1st District includes most of eastern Nebraska — other than Omaha and western Sarpy County. The Nebraska primary is May 15.

The winner will be facing an uphill climb in the general election given the advantages of incumbency enjoyed by Fortenberry, first elected in 2004. Neither has raised more than a tiny fraction of the incumbent’s $1.8 million campaign war chest.

Republican attacks will surely feature the leader of House Democrats, Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.

McClure said it’s time for a change in leadership.

“I admire her recent eight-hour stand for DACA recipients,” she said. “However, I have a general distrust of politicians that include established Democrats because they aren’t doing a great job of listening to the needs of agriculture states like Nebraska.”

Crawford said he would vote for the most qualified Democrat running for speaker and certainly wouldn’t vote for the current speaker, Republican Paul Ryan of Wisconsin.

“If it was Pelosi versus Ryan, I would vote for Pelosi because Pelosi will not cut taxes for the rich and she will not take away health insurance from millions of Americans,” Crawford said.