Almanac A members-only database of searchable profiles compiled and adapted from the Almanac of American Politics

Biography

Elected: 2012, term expires 2018, 1st term.

Born: March 1, 1951, Lincoln

Home: Valentine

Education: U. of NE-Lincoln, B.S. 1988

Professional Career: Rancher, 1972-2012.

Ethnicity: White/Caucasian

Religion: Presbyterian

Family: Married (Bruce Fischer) , 3 children

A former state senator from a rural town, Deb Fischer stunned political observers when she beat two better-known Republicans in Nebraska’s GOP primary in 2012. She went on to defeat Democrat Bob Kerrey in the general election, derailing his bid to reclaim the Senate seat he gave up in 2000.

Fischer grew up in Lincoln, where her mother was an elementary school teacher and her father was an engineer for the state’s Department of Roads. Her interest in public policy began in junior high school while watching Walter Cronkite anchor the CBS Evening News. Like many of her generation, the Vietnam War and the daily news reports of soldiers killed in that conflict reinforced to her how policy decisions can have a major impact. She met her husband, Bruce Fischer, at the University of Nebraska and left college in 1972 to marry him. They settled on his family ranch near Valentine, in northern Nebraska. Despite growing up in what she describes as the “big small town” of Lincoln, Fischer said in an interview with National Journal that she had little trouble adjusting to ranching life.

As her three boys grew older, Fischer went back to Lincoln to finish her degree. While she had no plans to teach, she graduated with a degree in education in 1988. She said she believed the degree would help her make decisions in the education leadership roles she had assumed, which began with service on the school board for Valentine’s small country school. Her first run for elected office was in 1990, when she won a seat on the Valentine Rural High School Board of Education. She later became president of the Nebraska Association of School Boards.

Fischer said she was drawn to the Republican Party’s focus on limited government. In 2004, she won a seat in Nebraska’s unicameral state legislature and was reelected in 2008. During her eight years in office, Fischer said she was guided by the view that state government has four main duties: education, infrastructure, public safety, and providing a safety net for the needy. “I’ve always tried to keep those in mind in making tough decisions,” she said. Fischer secured the chairmanship of the legislature’s Transportation and Telecommunications Committee. Among her biggest achievements was helping to win passage of legislation to shift some of the state’s sales tax revenues to road construction.

She waited until the end of the legislative session to enter the U.S. Senate race to succeed retiring Democratic Sen. Ben Nelson. In her campaign, she pledged to support measures to boost job creation and to balance the federal budget while promoting conservative values.

Up against state Attorney General Jon Bruning and state Treasurer Don Stenberg in the primary, Fischer began the race as the underdog. Bruning enjoyed the support of the GOP establishment, while tea party leaders including Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., rallied behind Stenberg. Fischer, however, steadily gained traction as Stenberg and Bruning turned their fire against each other. She also benefitted from the endorsement of 2008 vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin and a last-minute television ad blitz funded by TD Ameritrade founder Joe Ricketts. She finished with 41% of the vote to Bruning’s 36% and Stenberg’s 19%.

In the general election, she faced Kerrey, a former Nebraska governor and U.S. senator who was considered the Democrats’ best hope in a state that had been trending Republican since Kerry left office. Nearly half of Nebraska voters identify as Republicans, while only about a third register as Democrats. And although Kerrey was a household name, many voters were turned off by the fact that he had been living in New York before deciding to run for the Senate again.

Fischer had taken mainstream GOP stands on issues ranging from taxes to abortion rights. She opposes abortion except to save the life of the mother. But she touted her ability to work with both parties, and she distanced herself from controversial comments by Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney, who said at a fundraiser that he would never be able to appeal to 47% of voters who rely on government support. “My style is to develop relationships with people you work with” regardless of party, Fischer said, citing Nebraska’s senior senator, Republican Mike Johanns, as a role model.

She also stressed her family’s ranching background and her work in the legislature on issues important to rural Nebraska. Kerrey tried to make an issue of her family’s grazing rights on federal land, calling her a “welfare rancher.” He also dubbed her a “bad neighbor” for suing an elderly couple in the 1990s in a dispute over ownership of more than 100 acres along the scenic Snake River. Fischer’s campaign countered that such attacks were offensive to thousands of Nebraska farmers. She won 58% to 42% for Kerrey.

Randy Adkins, a political scientist at the University of Nebraska, told the Omaha World-Herald, “All she did was basically the same thing she did in the primary: run a very solid, reasonable campaign and not do anything crazy. She relied on the Republican voter registration advantage, and (she relied on) the Republican political operation to turn out the vote.”

Office Contact Information

MAIN OFFICE

(202) 224-6551

(202) 228-1325

RSOB- Russell Senate Office Building Room 454
Washington, DC 20510-2708

MAIN OFFICE

(202) 224-6551

(202) 228-1325

RSOB- Russell Senate Office Building Room 454
Washington, DC 20510-2708

DISTRICT OFFICE

(402) 391-3411

(402) 391-4725

11819 Miracle Hills Drive Suite 205
Omaha, NE 68154-4428

DISTRICT OFFICE

(402) 391-3411

(402) 391-4725

11819 Miracle Hills Drive Suite 205
Omaha, NE 68154-4428

DISTRICT OFFICE

(402) 441-4600

(402) 476-8753

440 North Eighth Street Suite 120
Lincoln, NE 68508-3647

DISTRICT OFFICE

(402) 441-4600

(402) 476-8753

440 North Eighth Street Suite 120
Lincoln, NE 68508-3647

DISTRICT OFFICE

(308) 630-2329

(308) 630-2321

1110 Circle Drive Suite 400
Scottsbluff, NE 69361

DISTRICT OFFICE

(308) 630-2329

(308) 630-2321

1110 Circle Drive Suite 400
Scottsbluff, NE 69361

DISTRICT OFFICE

(308) 234-2361

(308) 234-3684

20 West 23rd Street
Kearney, NE 68847-5335

DISTRICT OFFICE

(308) 234-2361

(308) 234-3684

20 West 23rd Street
Kearney, NE 68847-5335

Staff

Sort by: Interest Name Title

Abortion

Elizabeth Ruth
Legislative Aide

Paul Wasik
Legislative Correspondent

Agriculture

Jessica Clowser
Legislative Assistant

Neil Moseman
Policy Director

Animal Rights

Jessica Clowser
Legislative Assistant

Appropriations

John McDonough
Legislative Correspondent

Arts

Sharon Burd
Legislative Aide

Banking

John McDonough
Legislative Correspondent

Budget

John McDonough
Legislative Correspondent

Campaign

John McDonough
Legislative Correspondent

Disability

Sharon Burd
Legislative Aide

Disaster

Sharon Burd
Legislative Aide

Education

Sharon Burd
Legislative Aide

John McDonough
Legislative Correspondent

Energy

Jessica Clowser
Legislative Assistant

Neil Moseman
Policy Director

Environment

Jessica Clowser
Legislative Assistant

Finance

John McDonough
Legislative Correspondent

Foreign

Peter Schirtzinger
Military Legislative Assistant

Govt Ops

Sharon Burd
Legislative Aide

Health

Elizabeth Ruth
Legislative Aide

Paul Wasik
Legislative Correspondent

Homeland Security

Peter Schirtzinger
Military Legislative Assistant

Roger Lempke
Policy Director

Jamie Susskind
Legislative Counsel

Housing

John McDonough
Legislative Correspondent

Immigration

John McDonough
Legislative Correspondent

Jamie Susskind
Legislative Counsel

Intelligence

Peter Schirtzinger
Military Legislative Assistant

Judiciary

Jamie Susskind
Legislative Counsel

Labor

Elizabeth Ruth
Legislative Aide

Medicare

Paul Wasik
Legislative Correspondent

Military

Peter Schirtzinger
Military Legislative Assistant

Roger Lempke
Policy Director

Native Americans

Sharon Burd
Legislative Aide

Public Works

Jessica Clowser
Legislative Assistant

Science

Sharon Burd
Legislative Aide

Small Business

John McDonough
Legislative Correspondent

Social Security

John McDonough
Legislative Correspondent

Tax

John McDonough
Legislative Correspondent

Technology

Sharon Burd
Legislative Aide

Telecommunications

Jamie Susskind
Legislative Counsel

Trade

John McDonough
Legislative Correspondent

Transportation

Jessica Clowser
Legislative Assistant

Veterans

Elizabeth Ruth
Legislative Aide

Roger Lempke
Policy Director

Welfare

Jessica Clowser
Legislative Assistant

John McDonough
Legislative Correspondent

Women

Paul Wasik
Legislative Correspondent

Election Results

2012 GENERAL
Deb Fischer
Votes: 455,593
Percent: 57.77%
Bob Kerrey
Votes: 332,979
Percent: 42.23%
2012 PRIMARY
Deb Fischer
Votes: 79,941
Percent: 40.99%
Jon Bruning
Votes: 70,067
Percent: 35.92%
Don Stenberg
Votes: 36,727
Percent: 18.83%

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