Update: This transcript has been updated to reflect the current AP Stylebook guidelines.
Amantha Dickman, News Director: You’re listening to “KZUM News” on 89.3 KZUM Lincoln and KZUM HD.
[Fades in on the “KZUM News” program music, an original production of Jack Rodenburg. The music fades out.]
Amantha Dickman, News Director: Good afternoon and welcome to today’s edition of “KZUM News,” an hour dedicated to learning more about what is going on in Lincoln and the surrounding areas. I am the News Director, and your host, Amantha Dickman.
There are seventeen days until the November 8 general election. It is quickly approaching and we want to help make sure that you are prepared when you step into that voting stall. Throughout the month of October, we are sitting down with as many candidates as we can. Earlier this month, we met with the Nebraska gubernatorial candidates, Senator Carol Blood and Mr. Scott Zimmerman. Mr. Jim Pillen declined at the time so we provided an overview of his campaign alongside his website.
Today, we will start off our afternoon speaking with the Republican incumbent candidate for Secretary of State, Bob Evnen. Then we will be doing an overview of Congressman Mike Flood’s campaign as the republican incumbent candidate for the 1st Congressional District representing Nebraska. Mr. Flood’s team has yet to respond to our requests for an interview and we look forward to sitting down with him in the future. However, we still want to make sure you have that interview before you submit your ballot. And, lastly, we will be sitting down with Patty Pansing Brooks, the democratic nominee for the 1st Congressional District representing Nebraska.
But, before we get started, we have a couple of reminders from the Lancaster County Election Commissioner, David Shively.
Yesterday was the last day to register to vote online or by mail. However, if you wish to register in person, you can still do so until October 28. All you have to do is head over to the County building at 601 N. 46th Street. Even though they haven’t announced any events, there may also be some voter registration events going on throughout the next week. If we catch wind of any registration events, we will post them to our social media accounts.
The Lancaster County Commissioners Office also announced last weekend that they had begun to mail early voting ballots. Voters who requested their ballot be mailed to them should have begun to receive those ballots last week. Shively would like to remind the public that state law permits any registered voter to vote by early ballot. However, voters must request that ballot in writing. An early ballot request form is available on the Election Commissioner’s website – which will be linked in today’s transcript – and applicants… I mean… applications must be received by his office no later than 6:00 p.m. on Friday, October 28.
We will keep you updated on in-person registration events. But we have Secretary Evnen on the line this morning. Secretary Evnen is the incumbent candidate who is running unopposed, meaning he will likely continue to serve in his position for the next four years.
Robert Evnen, Incumbent Candidate for Secretary of the State: Amantha?
Amantha Dickman, News Director: Yes, I’m here and I can hear you.
Robert Evnen, Incumbent Candidate for Secretary of the State: Yeah, I didn’t get that word.
Amantha Dickman, News Director: I apologize for the confusion.
Robert Evnen, Incumbent Candidate for Secretary of the State: Mm-hmm. That’s okay.
Amantha Dickman, News Director: Well, I appreciate you taking the time to sit down with us this afternoon. I know Cindy was describing that you have a very hectic schedule for the next couple of weeks.
Robert Evnen, Incumbent Candidate for Secretary of the State: Yeah, I have actually a hectic schedule today. I was in the middle of a meeting and I just said, “Well, I have to make this call for a few minutes and then that meeting is gonna reconvene.”
Amantha Dickman, News Director: Oh, well then we will keep it short, I promise.
Robert Evnen, Incumbent Candidate for Secretary of the State: Okay. That’s fine.
Amantha Dickman, News Director: To start us off, the November 8 general election is approaching quickly. It’s less than a month away, which I know is a little crazy to think about. But you are running unopposed as the incumbent candidate for the Nebraska Secretary of State position.
As the incumbent, how long have you been serving as our Secretary of State?
Robert Evnen, Incumbent Candidate for Secretary of the State: I’m just concluding my first term. I was elected in November 2018 and then I was sworn into office in January of 2019.
Amantha Dickman, News Director: Yeah. So, you’ve been serving for almost four to five years.
Robert Evnen, Incumbent Candidate for Secretary of the State: Going on four years.
Amantha Dickman, News Director: Going on four years. So, you’ve had some time to get comfortable in the position. And what were you doing before you were elected?
Robert Evnen, Incumbent Candidate for Secretary of the State: I practiced law. I was an attorney in Lincoln.
Amantha Dickman, News Director: Oh, wonderful. Now, as Secretary of State, you do have a long list of duties that fall under your responsibility. Which of those areas is your top priority going into this new term? And why do you feel that area needs the most attention out of all of your responsibilities?
Robert Evnen, Incumbent Candidate for Secretary of the State: There are many responsibilities that have been assigned to the Secretary of State of Nebraska and they’re all important. They all are important functions for the benefit of the people of the state.
The Secretary of State is the Chief Elections Officer of the state. That, of course, is a very visible position. And having elections that are fair and secure is absolutely essential. It’s critical if you’re gonna have a representative democracy, a republic, which is what we have. It can’t function unless there are elections that are fair and secure and have integrity and the voters, the citizens of the state, have the conviction that the elections are fair and secure.
So, this is a very critical function of the Secretary of State’s Office is the Chief Elections Officer.
Elections are carried out across the state and they’re the responsibility of county election commissioners and county clerks. They do yeoman’s work in conducting our elections all across the state. And our elections could not go forward without them. They’re the ones who were doing the bulk of the work – the heavy lifting if you will – in our elections.
So, serving as a Chief Elections Officer is one of the most important responsibilities going forward as it has been over the last four years.
And, as it is for anyone who has the honor and privilege of serving as the Secretary of State, another responsibility [that] is very important is promoting international commerce, promoting international trade, and an exchange of culture and education internationally between Nebraska and the world. This is a statutory responsibility of the Secretary of State and it’s one that I take very seriously. It’s a way that the Secretary of State can use the status of the office to increase the top line of the state’s economy.
And if we can help the state’s economy grow, that just benefits everyone. So it’s a responsibility that’s very interesting. And it is one that puts me in contact with people all over the state and with people all over the world on behalf of Nebraskans and Nebraska agriculture and businesses. So that’s something, as well, that’s very important. And that’s a place where I think that the Secretary of State’s Office has the opportunity to help the economy of the state grow, which is very beneficial and professionally rewarding.
Business services is another area that is thought of as being kind of dull, not really that interesting. But the truth is that the Secretary of State keeps a record of businesses and also keeps a record of liens on personal property. So, lenders make filings through the Secretary of State’s Office of their loans and the security for the loans. In terms of personal property, this is really important because, in order for capital to move in a free market economy, people have to know who owns what and who has what priority on what loan. This is absolutely essential in order for capital to move. And it’s a function of the Secretary of State’s Office to keep records of this. So, it’s a very important function. Although, you know, it’s not something that has a lot of sizzle to it but it’s a critical function and it requires a lot of work coordination.
And we’re trying to make this process of filing as easy and straightforward as possible for our users. And that’s an ongoing process. We’re gonna be… over the next term if I’m reelected – and it looks pretty good for me – if I am reelected we’re gonna be focusing on improving the user’s experience in our business services systems.
So those are three things that I would point out. There are others that we could talk about as well.
I would just add that the Secretary of State is one of three executive branch officials who sit on the pardons board and that’s very important work as well.
Amantha Dickman, News Director: To clarify, when you say that Secretary of State is one of three officials who sits on the pardons board, you mean pardons as in the court system.
Robert Evnen, Incumbent Candidate for Secretary of the State: The Pardons Board is a constitutionally created board. The Pardons Board was created by the Nebraska Constitution and it exercises the power of executive clemency in the state of Nebraska. In many states, it’s the governor who does this. In the United States, it’s the President. You hear about the president giving pardons. In other states, you hear about governors giving pardons.
In the state of Nebraska, by virtue of our state constitution, the power of executive clemency rests with the state pardons board and the Pardons Board is composed of the governor, the Attorney General, and the Secretary of State. So, the board hears requests from people who’ve been convicted of crimes requesting a pardon, a commutation of sentence. And that is a very important function as well.
Amantha Dickman, News Director: Absolutely. And then revisiting… you mentioned, of course, that election oversight is one of your main responsibilities. Now, Nebraska has a variety of individuals who maybe don’t speak English fluently or it is their secondary language, which contributes to lower voter participation in those communities. Language has consistently been a barrier for those individuals. What steps are your office taking to encourage turnout for those communities?
Robert Evnen, Incumbent Candidate for Secretary of the State: We meet the requirements for translating voter information, there are requirements for that. And our office complies with those requirements. We meet those requirements.
In general, I think the turnout is a responsibility of parties and candidates. What’s important from our standpoint is to do what we can to make sure that it’s easy to vote and hard to cheat. So, we are involved in trying to smooth the way for communities that have difficulties. We’ve actually won awards related to our addressing the concerns of the disabled community so that they can vote at the polls and vote early if they wish.
And we also meet the requirements for language interpretation, language translation.
Amantha Dickman, News Director: Yeah, that’s wonderful to hear. I did not know that we had won awards on our accessibility. You’ve mentioned a couple times that one of your duties as the election oversight is to make sure that we have fair and equal elections and secure elections for that matter. And obviously, that’s been a huge topic of concern the last couple years here in the United States. Has Nebraska ever had any issues with voter fraud?
Robert Evnen, Incumbent Candidate for Secretary of the State: There are occasional issues that come to light related to voter fraud or the violation of election statutes. So, we have seen it. We haven’t seen it in large quantities. You don’t always see it.
What is important is that we have processes in place that will minimize it and that’s not a static thing. That isn’t a one-and-done thing. That’s a dynamic thing because it’s important to address the dynamic method in which people cast votes and the ways in which fraud and cheating can occur. So, we’re constantly vigilant in a dynamic way to pay attention to ways in which problems can arise and minimize those opportunities.
Amantha Dickman, News Director: Absolutely. And then just one last question here for you, since I know you’re running short on time and you have another meeting to get to.
You mentioned that you are streamlining the process for business licensing, and is that gonna include a new system for those businesses to use? Are you looking at a new website? What would that process look like in the future?
Robert Evnen, Incumbent Candidate for Secretary of the State: Well, we’re looking at the system we have, we’re looking at the possibility of new systems. We’re just evaluating where we are and trying to understand and reach some conclusions about how we can streamline and smooth out that process for our users, and for the people who work in the Secretary of State’s Office as well.
And the people who are working in the Secretary of State’s Office are your friends and neighbors, and they come to work every day and they’re trying to do a good job for the people of the state. What we want to do is take a look at our systems to assure that we have systems in place that help them do that.
And that’s, again, that’s just an ongoing process and we’re gonna be undertaking that in a more intensive way in the coming term.
Amantha Dickman, News Director: Absolutely. Now I am out of questions. Like I said, I know you’re running short on time, but is there anything you’d like to add before we head out?
Robert Evnen, Incumbent Candidate for Secretary of the State: Don’t forget to vote on November 8.
Go to the polls or vote early if that’s what you would prefer to do. But don’t forget to cast your ballot. Your ballot counts.
Amantha Dickman, News Director: Absolutely. Thank you so much, Secretary Evnen. I appreciate you taking time out of your day to sit down with us.
Robert Evnen, Incumbent Candidate for Secretary of the State: Sure. Thanks, Amantha. Nice speaking with you. Nice meeting you too. Have a good afternoon.
Amantha Dickman, News Director: That was Secretary Evnen online with us to discuss his plans for the upcoming term.
On October 2, Senator Patty Pansing Brooks and Representative Mike Flood met at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s Andersen Hall for their first debate of the season. Representative Flood recommitted to many of the same campaign promises that he set forth during his initial run for the 1st Congressional District seat at the time of the special election. Among those promises, he announced that – while he is against abortion – his recent vote against The Right to Contraception Act was not a reflection of his thoughts on contraception.
Mike Flood, Incumbent Republican Candidate for the 1st Congressional District: Well, thank you very much, Rod. I, as a member of the legislature in 2011, I introduced and passed the nation’s first 20-week abortion restriction. I believe in common sense abortion restrictions. I believe that. When we worked together, I was able to get a bipartisan bill passed with 44 out of the 49 state senators in the Nebraska legislature. And it’s never been challenged. Today, this is the standard that we’re talking about around the United States.
I also wanna make it clear that I have always believed that life begins at conception. That is a personal belief. That means a lot to me. But, as we look at creating and crafting a policy for the state of Nebraska, I would say that we have to be open and I would support an exception obviously for the life and the health of the mother, which I have always supported, but also in cases of rape and incest.
I think we have to, as Americans, look at what we can accomplish with reasonable abortion restrictions in the United States. There are countries around the world that do not allow abortions after 20 weeks. My opponent’s position on this issue is extreme. She favors taxpayer-funded abortions, dismemberment, abortions late-term abortions, and abortions up until the hour of birth. That’s extreme. And that’s not where Nebraskans are. That’s not where Americans are. That is out of bounds.
And, so, as a member of Congress, I feel that we should have reasonable common-sense abortion regulations. And I am not against birth control. So, I hope that answers your question. Thank you very much.
Amantha Dickman, News Director: Representative Flood also proclaimed his support for the Voter ID initiative 432, which is currently on the ballot, and reminded the public that he does not support what he calls ‘excessive government spending’ during inflationary periods, which is why he voted no to the Inflation Reduction Act. He then went on to talk about his position on border control, in relation to his recent visit to our southern border and his position on the Ukraine/Russia conflict.
Mike Flood, Incumbent Republican Candidate for the 1st Congressional District: Congress spent two minutes on this just over a month ago. I went to the southern border – and I’m the only of the two candidates up here that has – and I saw for myself the humanitarian crisis that is happening on our southern border under the Biden administration.
The policy has been when the illegal immigrants are taken into custody, they’re processed for five days and then they’re given a court date five years down the road. And they’re welcome into the American society.
More of our border patrol agents are now required to be working in processing centers than in the enforcement function that they signed up for. And, meanwhile, what’s happened, the word’s gone out. The drug cartels, which are massive criminal organizations are making billions of dollars, taking money from people from India, Romania Afghanistan Peru, El Salvador… 5 to $8,000 a person. They bring them up to the border, they get them across the border, and then they go to a stash house. What happens next?
They get extorted for their sexual services or for more hard labor in different places across America. It’s not right for them, and those are the ones that make it. I talked to a rancher who had 15 dead bodies on his place in the last two years. That’s the kind of crisis we’re dealing with. So what do we need to do?
We need to make sure we’re enforcing the law. We need to pass a bill that makes illegal immigrants coming to this country remain in Mexico while their application is pending. We need to build the wall. We need to include the fiber optic technology for detection, and we need to increase lighting so that border patrol agents can get up and down the border effectively.
I do believe that we should also make sure that we’re timely processing visa applications. In January, there was a 500,000 Visa backlog. Today there’s a 380,000 Visa backlog. It needs to be more efficient. But in the end of the day, we have a crisis down there and it needs to get solved.
Debate host: I’m just gonna start with you on this next two-minute response for this question.
What do you think should be done about the war in Ukraine and the threats from Russia so far? Should we continue spending or sending billions of dollars to help Ukraine fight the war?
Mike Flood, Incumbent Republican Candidate for the 1st Congressional District: I do support arming Ukrainians, making sure that they have access to the best weapons technologies.
Vladimir Putin is a killer. He is he is destructive. I believe in American world leadership. I believe that the American military preserves our peace every day and that countries like China and Russia are a direct threat to our homeland and to our way of life. We’ve also made a commitment to our NATO allies in Europe to be there in the event the invasion steps into a NATO territory.
I believe that it’s in everyone’s best interest that Vladimir Putin be stopped. And I am just so grateful for the leadership of President Zelensky and everything that’s happened in Ukraine. The courage they have shown the Americans, the world leaders, they’ve inspired to stand and fight against this Russian oppression.
Vladimir Putin is trying to convince the people of his own country that the Nazis have taken over Ukraine. He’s gaslighting. He’s dangerous, but most importantly, he’s desperate. We need to make sure that the might of the American military is ready to act in the event something really horrible happens.
We cannot afford a fight on this front with a world power that has nuclear weapons. We need to stop it in its tracks. And for that reason, I do support providing weapons. I also think that it’s important that as a country we stand strong with our NATO allies. And I think in the last year we’ve seen a resurgence of strength in NATO, which is good for the world and it’s good for American homeland security.
So yes, I do support what we’re doing in Ukraine.
Amantha Dickman, News Director: You can watch the full debate at KLKNtv.com to learn more about Representative Flood’s platform. We have a short break scheduled but afterward we have Senator Patty Pansing Brooks in the studio with us to tell us about her bid for the 1st Congressional District seat.
Stay tuned to learn more.
[“KZUM News” transition music, an original piece composed by Jack Rodenburg, fades in and then out. KZUM Radio’s usual underwriting and public services announcements air at scheduled times throughout the hour.]
Amantha Dickman, News Director: Welcome back to today’s edition of “KZUM News.”
Before the break, we had Secretary Evnen on the phone discussing his plans for the upcoming term. He is running unopposed as the republican incumbent for the position and we discussed his priorities for maintaining election security.
We also did a brief overview of Representative Flood’s campaign, since we have yet to get a response from his team about him joining us. We had some highlights from the debate he participated in that was hosted by KLKN on October 2.
Now, we have Senator Patty Pansing Brooks on air to discuss her own campaign, in opposition to Representative Flood, for the first congressional district seat.
Patty Pansing Brooks, Democratic Candidate for the 1st Congressional District: Hi, Amantha.
Amantha Dickman, News Director: Hi, Patty. How are you?
Patty Pansing Brooks, Democratic Candidate for the 1st Congressional District: Good. How are you doing?
Amantha Dickman, News Director: I’m doing wonderful, thank you.
Patty Pansing Brooks, Democratic Candidate for the 1st Congressional District: Good.
Amantha Dickman, News Director: Okay. November 8 is not that far away.
Patty Pansing Brooks, Democratic Candidate for the 1st Congressional District: It is not.
Amantha Dickman, News Director: How are you feeling about it?
Patty Pansing Brooks, Democratic Candidate for the 1st Congressional District: We’re very excited. We feel positive and really think this is gonna happen. And I’ll tell you, we’ve had so much support from all sides of the aisle; moderate Republicans, independents, and Democrats. And I feel really honored about that. You know, I just… Recently, The first lady recorded a statement on my behalf. And that was a huge honor. And the whole point is that we’ve got to come together as a country and work together. So I think that’s resonating with people and the fact that we’ve got to work across the aisle, recognize that Americans are friends, neighbors, colleagues, family and we are not each other’s enemies. And that’s really what I am. That’s the whole mission behind this effort to run for Congress.
Amantha Dickman, News Director: Absolutely. And then you’ve mentioned before that you really prioritize working across the aisle. As a senator in our legislature, you already have experience with this, but given the likelihood that you’ll be working with a senate that is either dominated by a party or has a split party control, how do you plan to continue to implement your strategies moving forward?
Patty Pansing Brooks, Democratic Candidate for the 1st Congressional District: You know, I don’t know how it’s gonna work out, but I do know that I’m gonna try. And I know that some people think it’s impossible.
But I did a lot of things in the Nebraska legislature that people thought were impossible. The work on White Clay, where we were able to end up having those stores get their liquor licenses reissued. Everybody told me that’s impossible. “Why are you wasting your time on that?” And I felt like I had to look at it with fresh eyes. We looked at it from a legal standpoint, and we were able to come up with a solution that ended up that those stores did not get their licenses reissued.
So I don’t know what I can do once I get there. I can’t make a plan. My plan is to go and get to know everybody and do what I did in the Nebraska legislature and make friends across the aisle and not just be beholden to the extremes of either party.
We’ve got to make decisions based on the best interests of Americans and not on the best interests of party. Most people don’t live in a partisan prism. We all have the same goals of feeding our families, good paying jobs, and making sure that our economy is thriving. Those are all the important things and I understand that. But most people are sick and tired of this political divide that we are living in right now. And I’m gonna go do what I can. I don’t know if I can do anything but I’m bold enough to try.
Amantha Dickman, News Director: And then we’re just gonna start out with another simple question. Why do you wanna be the 1st Congressional District representative? And what experience do you bring to the table?
I know that sounds really silly and simple to ask, but I think it’s a good question to get a feel for all of our candidates.
Patty Pansing Brooks, Democratic Candidate for the 1st Congressional District: It is.
Well. The question is, why would anyone want to do this? And it’s a valid question. And I have to say, it has never been my first desire to go into that mess. But I feel a duty and part of that is [be]cause of what I learned at the dinner table every night with my dad who was wounded in World War II and came back and taught me about the Constitution and our democracy and the precious nature of it.
So it’s just like voting. We all have to take off time and go to make an effort to vote. And this path opened and I felt a duty, almost a sacred duty, to do what I could and do what I can to help heal this country. So that’s number one. Why do I wanna do it? It’s not a desire. It’s not necessarily a desire. It’s more of a duty within me.
And the second… what was the second question? Sorry, the second part of that. What experience do I bring?
I think that clearly, my experience in the legislature for the last eight years, working across the aisle, working with some of the most conservative senators really has prepared me for an ability to do this. And, you know, I had over 60 bills passed and worked on multitudes of others with some of the most conservative and some of the most liberal senators in the body. The point is good ideas. The point is helping Nebraskans. The point is helping Americans. And that’s what I… I’m a good listener and I also have strong opinions and I can express them. And there are certain things that I believe that, of course, align with one party and that’s a Democratic party. But there are also other things on economy, that I agree with on the other side.
So we have got to come together and make sure that Americans understand the critical nature of our democracy and how we need to work to pull it back together. I think it’s one of the greatest threats to our national defense, is this political divide right now.
Amantha Dickman, News Director: Yeah, that’s really interesting to hear you say, especially because I had a question earlier that I had written down about maybe asking about what you thought was the greatest threat to the United States.
Patty Pansing Brooks, Democratic Candidate for the 1st Congressional District: Yeah. I really… I think it’s, of course, it’s China and Russia. China economically and Russia as militarily. But, you know, and the rogue nations like North Korea and also Iran… those countries that try to unsettle their areas, and then we have to respond in a way to help our allies. So those are obviously critical key issues.
Climate change is an issue, as we see down in Florida. And it’s… some people can’t stand hearing the words climate change. So let’s use extreme weather events. And the warming of the oceans and the planet and what’s happening now. I mean, Americans are gonna have to help pay for the damage that occurred in Florida. There was one community though down there that I saw in 60 Minutes that was prepared. They have built their buildings to withstand hurricane-force winds and to withstand flooding.
We have got to be smarter in our economy and build better. And the same thing’s true here in Nebraska with tornadoes. And we saw the epic bomb cyclone. It’s the craziest name for that, but it was a bomb cyclone in 2019 that devastated the Spencer Dam and devastated communities down to Fremont and Columbus. And we’ve had to help pay to rebuild those communities. Let’s look to make sure that we’re doing everything appropriately as we rebuild to protect from the next violent storm. And know they’re coming. It’s just a matter of when and we don’t know if it’s gonna be the same or harsher or less harsh. But we need to be prepared and make really positive decisions to protect our precious land, our precious resources, our water, and our air. And to be good stewards.
The agricultural community, they’re very good stewards of our land. The… especially the small farmers in Nebraska are working their hardest to protect their land and use the best methods possible. We’ve got to help support.
Amantha Dickman, News Director: I take it in that case that you are a strong supporter of those environmental protection clauses that are coming before Congress and those measures to help our farms switch over to environmentally friendly tools and technology.
Patty Pansing Brooks, Democratic Candidate for the 1st Congressional District: In that case, I’m in favor of incentives that help farmers. I’m not in favor of penalties or taxes against people. I am in favor of incentives to help people to move forward with the knowledge that we have. We are no longer using the horse and buggy and the buggy whip is no longer a commodity. So we have got to move as we grow and learn as technology helps us.
And yes. I mean, I can’t speak to which specific bills that you’re talking about. But, of course, we have to protect our land, our water. Those are our most precious resources. And, you know, the battles on water that seem to be looming in our not-too-distant future are highly concerning. And we have got to be prepared, protecting it as much as we can. But, because again, those issues about feeding the world and helping to make sure that people have sufficient water, both to grow the crops and to give to people for drinking water. Those are significant issues that we must be focused on and prepared to protect in the best and most knowledgeable way we can.
And that’s why I have a number of advisors. I have a number of different community advisors. One on science and climate. I have another on veterans and military affairs. I have another on ag[riculture] and rural communities one on justice and equity. So I am being, you know, I have brilliant, fabulous advisors. They’re listed on the website and are people who are really helping to inform my campaign and this journey. This is not just about me. I happen to be the embodiment of the change that people want. I happen to be the person who’s in the place. I fully well know that I’m carrying a lot of people’s hopes and dreams for the future forward. And it’s an awesome and overwhelming task at times. But I feel grateful and I’m working my hardest to live up to the expectations of so many people.
Amantha Dickman, News Director: And we’ve talked about a variety of issues already, but what would be your highest priority if you won the election? And, just as importantly, what steps would you be taking to reach those goals?
Patty Pansing Brooks, Democratic Candidate for the 1st Congressional District: Well, as I’ve said, my highest priority is to heal this political divide. So that’s one thing.
But, of course, we have to work on inflation. That’s so important. We have to make sure that groceries and, you know, gas are not so high. I intend to work to protect our freedoms.
Another issue that came forward, of course, that Dobbs [v. Jackson] opinion, we know that all people’s reproductive rights are at risk. Even birth control. For goodness’ sake, birth control. We can’t make our own decisions about when to start a family or how we’re going to do it. But then, if you look at the other things like same-sex marriage and interracial marriage, and making sure that people and not the government is mandating how we move forward in the most personal and important part of our lives. Economically, personally, it’s all so critical and important.
And I just, you know, I know that people are understanding that that 14th amendment is a precious amendment in our constitution. And it’s under complete attack no matter what they say. It was clearly set out by Justice Thomas in his concurring opinion on the Dobbs [v. Jackson] case where they overturned Roe [v. Wade]. And so, not only letting people decide whether or not they need to terminate a pregnancy because of rape or incest. There’s no exception on that.
And I’ve got people saying that “Oh, I believe in abortion at all levels.” That’s not true. The Roe [v. Wade] opinion allowed balanced the viability of the fetus, which is about 20 to 22 weeks against the life of the mother.
And, yes, I will proudly stand up and say if there is a mother, who at 30 weeks, her life – because of some complication that occurred – is about to die and she’s got two little kids at home… I tend toward the life of the mother. I’m sorry. I have… no, actually. I have no apologies about that.
That is something that is important to our country, to our people. If one-half of the people in this country do not have the right or the ability to make their own healthcare decisions, we are no longer a democracy. And it is very concerning to me. And those are things that I will stand up and fight for.
So, I don’t think that has anything to do with party. That has to do with my position that I’ve had ever since I was little. And my mom fought for the ability for people to make their own decisions. And she taught that to me. And I will go forward to advocate and fight for the rights of others to make their own healthcare decisions and not be forced by government mandate to have a baby against their will.
And who’s gonna pay for that, by the way, when you’re being forced to have a baby? [Be]cause you know you can’t handle it economically. Who is going to be paying for [that]?
Amantha Dickman, News Director: That’s really great to know that those are some of your priorities moving forward, so listeners can be a little more familiar with your platform.
Now we do have some more specific questions about things that are currently going on in the world, and we wanna know what our candidates’ responses are to those. So one of them is, the last time you were on our program, we did briefly talk about your stance on immigration, but it was just kind of the barest of interviews. Would you be willing to expand on that subject, discussing your stance on the border wall and if you would or would not support efforts to restructure our immigration process?
Patty Pansing Brooks, Democratic Candidate for the 1st Congressional District: Thank you. Yes. I believe that we need more security down along the border.
If you look at the statistics by some of the most conservative institutes, 90% of the illegal drugs that are coming in through our borders are coming in through the ports of entry. 90%. And then, to add to that, over 75% of the drugs that are coming in are being carried in by U.S. citizens. U.S. citizens, over 75%. And in fact, this institute, the CATO Institute which is supported by the Koch brothers, has said that only 0.02% of illegal border crossers are carrying drugs. .02%.
They’re coming for safety. They’re coming to lead their country. They’re coming for asylum. They’re not coming to bring drugs across the border. Over 75% are U.S. citizens. People just don’t realize that. So what we have to do, since 90% of the drugs are coming in through our ports of entry, we obviously need more support for the border patrol down there and at the various ports to make sure that they have more ability to look and find the drugs. It is not just the rhetoric that we continue to hear about what terrible people are coming across. You’re describing U.S. citizens and they are terrible if they’re bringing that fentanyl and all of that. But that’s never couched in those terms. And I think it’s really too bad.
I am totally against building a wall. It’s too much money for too little return. And we have got to work together. And I believe in a path to citizenship. We need the workers. We know that workforce development is the number one issue of the state and local chambers. We know that business after business after business is having trouble finding enough people. Part of that has to do with the issues of Covid-19 and what happened. We lost a million people to Covid-19. We have lost 4 million people and workers to long-term Covid-19 that is affecting their ability to get back and work. No one’s talking about the fact that that’s 5 million people out of our country that have had their workability – well, certainly the people that died – but affected.
So, you know, we have got to do better. We’ve got to bring in people and seek people that have the skills that we need. We have to validate and find a path to citizenship, especially for our dreamers. These fabulous young people that I’ve gotten to work with and meet on a number of different legislative issues. We’ve got to work to make sure that they can get a path to citizenship. We’ve educated them. We have worked so hard to make them part of our community. They’re paying taxes. We have got… they know no other country and we have got to do a better job with the immigration policy. No one person, no one party has every answer. We have got to work across the aisle. We have got to solve these issues and help our economy. These are significant issues to our economy.
Amantha Dickman, News Director: And you briefly touched on one of our other questions, which is that Covid-19 has had a lasting impact on the United States economy, clearly. What policy steps should Congress take beyond stimulus money or bailouts in the next five years to help cultivate that economy?
Patty Pansing Brooks, Democratic Candidate for the 1st Congressional District: Well, we have to do what we can for Nebraska.
I’ll be fighting for the ag[riculture] producer to make sure we ought to be not only feeding the world, but fueling the world. We know that Ukraine usually supplies 1/10 of the world suite. That’s not happening. Our Nebraska farmers can step up and fill that need, and we have to do that.
And the same thing with energy. There’s no magic bullet at this point. So we have to be fluid and have diversity. My science and energy and climate advisory group talks about strength through diversity. And we have to be diverse right now. We have to head towards a perfect solution, but there’s not one. So we have to use solar, wind, hydrogen, nuclear. We have to work towards clean energy solutions that lead towards carbon sequestration. There are a lot of businesses that are working on that right now and we can lead the world in that area.
And I don’t know if that’s through subsidies to those farmers. I don’t know what it is, but we’ve gotta make sure – and I’m going to fight for the Nebraska farmers to make sure that they are leading in these areas and that they’re using the best methods possible. So, I think that also lowering prescription drug costs and lowering the premiums on the Affordable Care Act are ways to help our inflationary issues. And those all affect the issues and the long-term issues arising from Covid.
So that’s how I think I would basically answer your question on that.
Amantha Dickman, News Director: Thank you. And then to go hand in hand with the question before, the United States Congress is currently looking at S.3488, otherwise known as the “Defending Ukraine Sovereignty Act of 2022.’ It lays out America’s plan to support the territorial integrity of Ukraine and other eastern European countries against invasion by outside forces, by providing security assistance and other measures of support. If you were to win the election, how would you vote on this subject moving forward?
Patty Pansing Brooks, Democratic Candidate for the 1st Congressional District: Well, of course the devil’s in the details, so I’m sorry I have not read that entire piece of legislation.
But my hope is that we can continue to support Ukraine. We continue to support our NATO allies who are working and, of course, at greatest risk because of Russia. You know, Russia’s goal and Putin’s goal is to move forward and go towards all the other countries. We know that Poland and other countries are at risk if Ukraine falls, and so we have got to do our best in a bipartisan effort.
So, I don’t have all the answers. But I’m willing to work with people to find those answers, to figure out how best to balance the support of Ukraine with avoiding World War III, boots on the ground, and complete devastation of the world.
So we have got to do what we can. I don’t have the full answers at this moment. I am ready to look. We’ve also gotta balance the money on all of this. But if we let Ukraine go, and they’ve certainly been an inspiration to the entire world about standing up and not taking this.
And I hope people… I saw, again, on 60 Minutes that the Taiwanese people are feeling support and encouragement and just they’re feeling empowered by what is happening in Ukraine.
And we’ve all got to recognize that, to main world peace, we have to show strength. So that’s just the issue. How do we do that? What’s the best way to do it? And, of course, no one wants any kind of nuclear activity. So, I will depend on my veterans and military affairs advisors. I have a number of really bright people that I will be depending on and listening to for advice on all of these issues.
Amantha Dickman, News Director: Absolutely. And I can respect your desire to get another secondary opinion and hear from your council first before you make an absolute decision.
Patty Pansing Brooks, Democratic Candidate for the 1st Congressional District: I, you know, yesterday I got to go up to Offutt and the 55th Wing. And it was very interesting to hear what they’re doing and how they are. You know, it’s interesting cuz they don’t have all brand new jets. They have repurposed planes. Now, of course the repurposing is expensive, but they are trying to use dollars wisely. The plan, you know, what they have in technology to oversee Ukraine, to oversee what’s happening at the border, to oversee if there’s any kind of nuclear… if Russia hits a plant, whether or not there’s any radiation coming up from that plant. They actually have a plane that can sniff that out to see what kind of danger Ukraine and other countries around are in.
So, you know, all of that is important. But, of course, it’s all very complicated too.
So again, I will listen to all the different sides of what the issues are for sure.
Amantha Dickman, News Director: Then switching gears just a little bit what do you view as the government’s obligation, if any, to help American workers secure health insurance? Do you support the creation or continuation of such a program like Medicare for All or Obamacare? Or do you have a different idea in the back of your mind that you would propose in its place?
Patty Pansing Brooks, Democratic Candidate for the 1st Congressional District: Well, as I said, I support the Affordable Care Act and making sure that we can move forward and cut the premiums for workers.
We also have to work and help workers with things like childcare. If we want workers there working, if we don’t have any kind of supplemental childcare to help, it’s when a child gets sick or there’s a problem they have to go home… one of them has to go home and we have to do a better job on some of those issues.
On affordable housing, again, the number one issue for the Chambers and businesses is workforce development. If we want businesses to come here, we have to be offering wonderful things. We have to be offering childcare. We have to be finding and building affordable housing. What business would ever move here if the housing isn’t there for their workers?
We keep wanting to attract major businesses to Nebraska but we know that we are completely lacking in affordable housing in other areas. So we’ve got to do the best we can to be the most welcoming state. We’ve got to stop the discrimination in our businesses. We have got to be a state that is welcoming and wholeheartedly requesting and inviting people to come here and to work and help our economy thrive and grow.
Amantha Dickman, News Director: Now, I know we are quickly running out of time, and you have other things to do this afternoon, but we do have one more question.
Patty Pansing Brooks, Democratic Candidate for the 1st Congressional District: Of course.
Amantha Dickman, News Director: Nebraska is home to a variety of secondary education institutions and, for many of these students, the subject of student loan forgiveness is weighing heavily on their mind.
Of course, President Biden has announced his one-time student loan forgiveness plan, which is beginning to open applications next month. But do you think Congress has a responsibility to build off of this plan and expand it? And if so, what steps would you consider taking and if not, why?
Patty Pansing Brooks, Democratic Candidate for the 1st Congressional District: Well, my opponent has said – I wish he were, you know, he refused to come on this show and have a forum together – but he has said that he absolutely opposes any kind of reimbursement of student loans.
This is while he took nearly a million dollars in PPP Loan forgiveness. And I don’t blame that [be]cause we took some too. It was a scary time. In 2020, everybody had issues. But to say that these students who also took out loans in 2020 – and there are limits. Again, he says, “Oh, well, all these doctors and lawyers, and that’s not true.” There’s a limit of $60,000 or less income. The loans that are being forgiven are the Pell Grant loans.
Those Pell Grant loans are now at about $6,300 per student. And they’re raising this to $10,000. But I… you know, what is concerning is the bulk of student lending. We have a much bigger problem than just the fact, number one, to raise the Pell Grants. We have to make those more accessible to people and help pay for that. But we have to limit or cap the interest on student loans to a cost of living or something like that.
I have a member of my family that is paying 14% right now on a student loan. 14%. That’s egregious. It’s unreasonable. He signed this loan when he was 19 years old. He did not have anybody, an adult there with him. He’s not immediately in my family. He did not have an adult there with him. And he had no idea what this meant or what his long-term capability was. He’s thinking about dipping into his retirement to be able to pay off this loan, where he’s paying $1,200 a month and he got Pell Grants and that will help him if that $10,000 is given.
But to have no sympathy for students and the costs of education, which have increased significantly. I just… I don’t understand it and we’ve got to do better.
My opponent has continued to vote down the aisle on the far, far left, only according to party. He is not working across the aisle. He’s voted against the police four out of five times. And it’s just inconceivable to me.
But two of those bills were on mental health, both for the schools and for the police departments. There’s only one police department in the whole state of Nebraska that has a mental health expert on their staff. One. And he voted against supplementing that work for the police departments, to be able to pay for that and help on that.
And he voted against an active shooter alert. If there’s a shooter on 13th and O Streets, we will get a little alert on our phone that says, “Don’t drive by 13th and O Streets. There’s an active shooter and the police don’t want us down there.”
I don’t wanna be down there. But then again, of course, all of the things like birth control and voting against reproductive rights and being able to cross state lines. I know so many people that go up to the Mayo Clinic when they have a serious issue and they go up there for a second opinion. That is wrong. And these are freedoms that are being taken away from us. And if I sound concerned, I truly am. I’m concerned. I want students out there recognizing that their lives depend on these votes this November.
So I know you’re trying to end up, but I really want to say that you know… I need to finish up the interview too, but I just wanna thank you so much for this time.
Amantha Dickman, News Director: Absolutely. Well, thank you for joining us this afternoon. I appreciate you sitting down with us to discuss your platform. Thank you very much.
Patty Pansing Brooks, Democratic Candidate for the 1st Congressional District: And, to my voters, go to pattyforcongress.com and please vote for me in in November. Thank you.
Amantha Dickman, News Director: Thank you. Have a lovely afternoon Patty, and safe travels.
Patty Pansing Brooks, Democratic Candidate for the 1st Congressional District: You too. All my best, Amantha.
Amantha Dickman, News Director: Thank you. Bye bye.
And that was Patty Pansing Brook, the democratic nominee for the 1st congressional district seat. She is running in opposition of republican incumbent Representative Mike Flood.
We also want to do a quick fact-check here.
Patty did mention some statistics pulled from the CATO study on fentanyl smuggling. She recalled their findings that 90% of drugs come in at legal entry points instead of crossing the border illegally, that .02% of migrants crossing the border have illegal drugs, and that 75% of those drugs are carried by US Citizens. According to that study, those first two statistics are correct. However, we could not confirm that CATO’s study established the statistic that 75% of drugs are carried by United States Citizens. That is a statistic instead established by the United States Sentencing Commission instead of the CATO study.
But we did want to clarify that information for listeners.
Lastly, I want to remind you that our survey in preparation for our media literacy series is still up! We are trying to gather more information about how individuals – like yourself – perceive local and national newsrooms. There are a couple of questions about bias, misinformation, and a place to include questions. These questions will then be presented to our panel of professionals and educators, who will explain why newsrooms operate the way they do. If you have a moment, please, check that survey out. The more people who participate, the better our data and the better our conversations will be during our Media Literacy Series. You can find a post with the survey links under the “KZUM News” tab at kzum.org. You can also find the link in today’s transcript or the QR code on our social media pages. Please check it out and, of course, thank you to everyone who already has participated.
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