Ben Sasse: Nebraska U.S. Senate Candidate Profiles


October 16th, 2014

Lincoln, NE – A downtown Lincoln ballroom was crowded for the annual conference of the Independence Insurance Agents of Nebraska. The noon hour menu included lunch, coffee and tea, and two of Nebraska’s U.S. Senate candidates, answering questions about social security, taxes and the Affordable Care Act, commonly called Obamacare.


“We need to do real health care reform and Obamacare isn’t it,” said Republican U.S. Senate candidate Ben Sasse. “Obamacare is not going to work.”

It’s an issue that’s been at the forefront of Sasse’s campaign since the 42-year-old from Fremont announced his U.S. Senate bid a year ago. He frequently speaks of having read the entire law, and says he keeps a copy in the RV he travels in on the campaign trail. Earlier this year the conservative publication National Review ran a cover picture of Sasse with the headline, “Obamacare’s Nebraska Nemesis.”

But Sasse told the insurance professionals it’s also an example of how Washington isn’t working, with blame for both major parties: Democrats for what he calls “big government, one-size-fits-all solutions”; Republicans for often not having “any ideas at all.” “And if you give people this false choice between a bad idea and no idea, the bad idea trumps it, and that’s some of how we got Obamacare,” Sasse told insurance agents.

Sasse speaks at the Independent Insurance Agents of Nebraska meeting. (Photo by Mike Tobias, NET News)

Sasse speaks at the Independent Insurance Agents of Nebraska meeting. (Photo by Mike Tobias, NET News)

Sasse’s view of Washington and Federal government comes from the perspective of someone who’s worked there. During the administration of President George W. Bush, Sasse held positions with the Department of Justice, Department of Homeland Security, and Department of Health and Human Services, and for a short time was chief of staff for Nebraska Congressman Jeff Fortenberry. Sasse’s resume also includes working as a management consultant and a position with the University of Texas. Before and during this time he earned four college degrees, including a doctorate in history.

Raised in Fremont, Sasse came back to Nebraska more than four years ago to become president of Fremont’s Midland University. He says the once near-bankrupt school is now “one of the fastest-growing in the Midwest,” and says this “turnaround job” is a good example of how he works.

“We called people together,” Sasse said, “and we opened the books and we said ‘hey, instead of just assuming all these preconceived reasons why side A wants to shout at side B and side B is going to push it all back at side A,’ we said ‘let’s just look at the books and say who are our students. Are we benefitting them. If we can’t pay our bills, what are we going to have to do to change,’ and we rolled up our sleeves and we made a real difference, but by focusing on the most important issues, not starting with the screaming.”

Conservative is a label that fits Sasse well. In addition to opposing to the Affordable Care Act, Sasse says he’ll fight to protect second amendment gun rights, believes marriage is between one man and one woman, and says he’s against amnesty and a pathway to citizenship for immigrants illegally in the country. Entitlement reform is his top choice for a signature piece of legislation to be responsible for, if elected.

Sasse speaks to supporters at his primary election night gathering. (Photo by Mike Tobias, NET News)

Sasse speaks to supporters at his primary election night gathering. (Photo by Mike Tobias, NET News)

“I’m a market-oriented conservative who believes in decentralized solutions wherever possible,” Sasse said. “I think America is a lot more than just Federal programs. Mandates and taxes are important and necessary in certain domains, but you can’t fix every problem there, and increasingly, I think we have a crisis of public confidence.”

When everything is done and counted, Sasse will likely outpace the other three candidates combined in campaign fundraising. While he’s quick to point out that he’s received more donations from Nebraskans than his opponents, Sasse has also received significant out-of-state support from donors connected with the so-called Tea Party. He’s not interested, though, in being labeled a Tea Party candidate.

“I don’t exactly know what Tea Party means,” Sasse said, “because if you look at some of the polling, about 60 percent of Nebraska Republicans say they don’t like the term Tea Party, but they identify with the Tea Party’s stances on issues. That’s another way of saying, it’s a pretty useless term mostly foisted by the media, and I think at the end of the day, what Tea Party means in Nebraska is mostly urgency. Nebraskans think there are big and broken problems and they want Washington to move faster about the most urgent ones.”

For Sasse, it consistently comes back to a belief in limited Federal government, as he summarized in the end of 15 minutes in front of insurance agents. “When governance is necessary, it should usually be delivered at the state and local level,” Sasse said. “We should devolve as many questions as possible back to the American plurality and entrepreneurship of communities like ours.”

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