by Meghan Feeks
Nebraska is a traditionally conservative state that values hard work, independence, robust trade and a balanced budget.
Which is exactly why many Nebraskans have had it not just with Trump — who won 60% of the state in 2016 — but with the whole GOP establishment.
According to Jane Raybould — who took 64% of the vote in Nebraska’s Democratic primary in May — this could mean trouble for incumbent GOP Senator Deb Fischer this fall. And as a fourth-generation Nebraskan running “a true grassroots campaign,” Jane is determined to give the Cornhusker State the leadership it deserves.
On a recent call hosted by the Abroad Engagement Initiative, Jane said she’s spent years talking to her fellow Nebraskans in the aisles of her family’s independent grocery stores, which employ more than 2,000 people, and also as a Lincoln City Council member. But in recent years, she’s noticed a change.
“People are really fed up with the dysfunction in DC. But what’s different now, compared to when I was running for lieutenant governor in 2014, is they’re also energized and want to get involved in the political process. Grassroots groups are springing up everywhere, and not necessarily on partisan lines. They realize our democracy is fragile and they’re concerned.” – Jane Raybould
These changing currents — reflected nationwide — prompted Senator Chuck Schumer to call Jane one day, while she was riding her bike, and ask her to run for Senate. For the first time in a long time, he felt Democrats had a real shot at the seat. And with her deep Nebraska roots, main-street savvy and firm handle on the important issues in her state, she struck him as a good candidate to fill it.
In her campaign, Jane is taking first-term Senator Fischer to task on her backing of the GOP tax plan, which she says has benefited large corporations at the expense of small business owners. But she isn’t just talking the talk: unlike Senator Fischer, who has received substantial funding from corporate donors, Jane refuses corporate PAC donations and has raised 91% of her campaign financing in-state.
In addition, Jane is calling out her opponent for becoming the first Nebraska senator in almost half a century not to join the Senate Agriculture Committee (well, until very recently, anyway). This has left Nebraskan food producers without a voice on this all-important committee as Trump-era trade policies have crippled the agricultural sector — with Senator Fischer’s backing.
Healthcare and education are other major focuses for Jane as Nebraskans face soaring health-insurance premiums and fight to protect public schools. Social security and other programs for the elderly are also a high priority.
“An 86-year-old man I spoke with told me he was looking for a part-time job,” she recalled. “The cost of his Medicare had increased, so his social security check had been cut. He and his wife had only $50 left to spend that month, and they couldn’t make ends meet.”
Jane supports second amendment rights, but she is also strongly in favor of renewing the ban on assault weapons and strengthening background checks, and has criticized Senator Fischer for accepting NRA contributions. Nebraskans are concerned for the safety of their children, she said, and had a strong showing at school walk-outs and marches against gun violence in even the most conservative parts of the state.
Frustration with the status quo, combined with a groundswell of grassroots energy, gives Jane confidence that Democrats can win this Senate contest in November. Campaign contributors can also expect good bang for their buck, she noted.
“With enough resources, we can win this race. But the good news is media buys are cheap here in Nebraska. I see people getting out their pocket change, and I think to myself, good — we can buy a lot of air time with that.”
To learn more about Jane Raybould’s campaign, click here.
The Abroad Engagement Initiative was founded by Mark Bergman in 2016 to engage Democrats and broaden the donor base in London and elsewhere outside the U.S. The initiative includes regular conference calls and events focused on U.S. campaigns, grassroots efforts, developments in Washington and important progressive issues. To sign up for weekly mailings, send Mark an email.
Meghan Feeks is living in London and loving it, but always a New Yorker at heart. Communicator by day, writer by night, tango dancer by midnight.