The candidates are assembled at the Holiday Inn Lincoln for the Lincoln Independent Business Association's 2008 Senatorial Debate. Scott Kleeb is here with a contingent of staff and volunteers. If you didn't catch his live-blog last night you can read it here. (Be sure to check out Scott's upcoming Boots and Beers in Chicago 9/17, New York 9/18, San Francisco 9/22, Boston 9/25 and Washington D.C. 9/26)
The basement room here is packed and there's a well-rounded media presence.
You can watch a live-stream of the debate at WOWT (we are hoping that WOWT is going to launch that shortly, if not, you'll have to read below, sorry), or just read the live blog as it happens below...
Here we go!
The head of LIBA is reading the LIBA mission statement. Now, a local business leader is introducing his Lincoln-based business and the LIBA president is now ready to introduce the candidates...oops, they are having a drawing for some prizes.
Ticket 117 wins!
207 wins! and 140 wins! and 0243 wins!
Okay, now the candidates are at the podiums.
Question 1: There are 500 oil spills per year in Alaska, even if that number is exagerrated, that's still a lot of spills. Are you in favor of drilling in ANWAR?
Scott Kleeb: Let me be clear. I'm for doing everything we can do to support our economy in the United States. We should be expanding our energy resources right here in the United States. Democrats don't like to talk about drilling and Republicans don't like to talk about renewables, and we are now paying for a broken system in Washington at the gas pump.
There are Nebraska-based solutions that create jobs right here. Wind power. Corn-based ethanol.
Mike Johanns: The answers is yes. Your premise would never allow us to explore for oil anywhere. On your tables is a comprehensive document that says yes to a wide array of proposals on energy. We will move away from our dependence on foreign oil, but right now we have to drill and explore for more energy resources here.
Scott Kleeb: My opponent, as a member of the Bush cabinet, suggested that he veto the Farm Bill that featured $1 Billion for research in renewable cellulosic fuels.
Mike Johanns: I'm the only person here today who has grappled with these issues in government.
Question 2: Can you be specific about what you can do to make Health Insurance more affordable?
Scott Kleeb: We are talking portability, about public/private partnerships that can bring down the costs. We have "job lock" that keeps young people from starting new businesses. 80% of Nebraskans are afraid of losing their insurance. We can fix this. My opponent slashed Mental Health coverage and called it reform. We need to fix Washington to fix health care, and we can do that.
Mike Johanns: Small businesses, right here in this room believe in free enterprise. Let's allow you to join forces with other small businesses and bring your health care costs down. Why don't we do that across state lines? Why doesn't the government assist you? Why not do that kind of program?
Scott Kleeb: I live in Hastings Nebraska where they shut down our regional center. We are being sued in Nebraska over the shut down of a facility in Beatrice. That's not reform.
Mike Johanns: That facility in Beatrice, Nebraska is not a mental health care facility.
Question 3: What should government do about the financial crisis?
Mike Johanns: No more bail outs. The fundamentals are not good. We have a deficit of $500 Billion next year. The war costs are going to add to that. And add to that that SSI is going into the general and not into the general fund. How do we deal with this? I've been there. I empathize. I've been there. When I left Lincoln, we left a surplus. We expanded the economic base with development.
Scott Kleeb: The free market is one of the most powerful forces in our society. It's created more jobs than any other force but it needs a referee. What we have is a culture of debt. That's a birth tax on my little girl. We are looking at more bail outs, as Secretary Paulson said, with AIG. And everyone of us is paying for that. We are rewarding a system that's broke. And we are going to pay for that by sending the same people back to Washington. Our greatest risk is that nothing will change, and we need to make a change.
Mike Johanns: The regulations need to be understandable and predicatable. Companies don't hate being regulated they just want to know what the rules are.
Scott Kleeb: We need to return to pay as you go. We need to return to fiscal discipline. As a cabinet member my opponent spent $20 million on trips around the world studying, for example, Mississippi Crawdads in Australia. That's a broken system.
Question 4: What is the future of ethanol?
Scott Kleeb: Corn-based ethanol has been great to our state and to our national security as well. Every ethanol plant we build in this state is a boon to our economy and our environment and is also a block in the fight against terrorism. All the development we do with corn-based ethanol builds that. The farm bill not only had provisions that helped build our economy and infrastructure, but had funding for research in ethanol. And that was vetoed and that's what's wrong with Washington.
Mike Johanns: I support the blenders credit and tariff. Most of what we blend in the U.S. is 90/10. What I'm laying out for you, when we get up to 13.5 Billion of ethanol we will plateau. We need to grow this industry. I did that as governor. I supported additional funding for research and deveopment in the cabinet.
Scott Kleeb: We have one of the greatest advocates for corn-based ethanol in Washington in Ben Nelson and I lood forward to joining him.
Mike Johanns: Nebraska is the 2nd-largest producer of ethanol in the United States and let's make it stay that way.
Question 5: What can Congress do to show that this nation is serious about getting off foreign oil. (the production tax credit)
Scott Kleeb: We need to talk more about the production capacities that Nebraska does have. That expiration of the production tax credit IS a problem. We need to build the infrastructure whether as public or private options, the wind power and transmission lines that can power Omaha and Lincoln and Denver. Nebraska has the 6th greatest potential for wind power but Iowa is far ahead of us. What does that say about our leadership?
Mike Johanns: Public power has been good to Nebraska. When I was governor I got the George Norris award. I kept it on my desk in Washington when I served in the cabinet. I was in the cabinet, and I saw a man in New York. He said, "There's been a devil here I can smell the sulpher." That man was Hugo Chavez and he was referring to George Bush, and yet we buy his oil. We need to break our dependence on foreign oil.
Scott Kleeb: Public power has worked in Nebraska. I'm talking about doing better in Washington with federal progams.
Mike Johanns: I'm talking about policies that tell Hugo Chavez "you can keep your oil."
Question 6: What are Nebraska values?
Mike Johanns: We are hard working people and a hand shake means something. If we don't clean up our politics, we aren't going to clean up Washington. I believe you have to go to Washington the way to your ran your campaign. You won't see push polls from Mike Johanns. I would condemn them if someone did them on my behalf. Over here, Lisa Hannah, with the video camera, follows me around the state and tapes everything I say. That's wrong. I won't do that to my opponents.
Scott Kleeb: Nebraska values are hard work, personal integrity and our faith and families. Faith and family, our bedrocks, are going to be our strength going forward. That pioneer spirit is going to be how we change Washington. Nebraska values are going to change Washington if we refuse to quit until the job is done. We need to stop looking at the next election or job, or the next generation.
Mike Johanns: Thank you LIBA. What I learned as mayor of Lincoln, it's not enough to give speeches to define a problem, but you have to get people to work across the aisle to solve a problem. I've done that and I'm the only candidate running who has. I will not just define the problems we face, anyone can do that, but work to get everyone together to solve it. I can do that.
Scott Kleeb: This election is about a choice. One of the candidates has much more experience being a part of this broken system. The risk we face in this election is that nothing will change. We can do better than this. Using our pioneer values we can ask not for more government, but smarter government. We can't just kick the can down the road. We are paying the price for that. We can make a change.
END OF DEBATE
Round of applause as the candidates leave the podium.