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Editorial: Pansing Brooks would offer a more compassionate approach to incendiary issues

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A guide to this years candidates for each Nebraska congressional district.

Voters in Nebraska’s 1st Congressional District have gone through quite a roller coaster in the past year.

Their longtime congressman, Republican Jeff Fortenberry, was indicted, tried and convicted of three felonies related to illegal campaign contributions. Fortenberry then resigned, triggering a special election in June.

Mike Flood, a Republican state senator, defeated Patty Pansing Brooks, a Democratic state senator, and since July has been the congressman for the 1st District, which includes all or part of 12 eastern Nebraska counties and includes Lincoln, Bellevue, Norfolk and Columbus.

Flood and Brooks also were the two candidates chosen by their parties’ voters in the May primary, and so they’re squaring off again in the Nov. 8 election. Despite the messages in campaign ads and mailings, both are good people with records of dedicated public service, although they have sharply different views.

Pansing Brooks is a thoughtful, eight-year veteran state senator who has focused on juvenile justice reform, penalties for sex traffickers and funding for public education. She’s worked to find common ground in the Nebraska Legislature, and supported efforts to eliminate taxes on Social Security and reduce property taxes. In Congress, she says that her priority would be to expand healthcare access for all Americans.

Pansing Brooks’ record has even won her the support from a member of Gov. Pete Ricketts’ household — his wife, Susanne Shore. A Democrat, the first lady noted her own passion for helping Nebraska’s children and said Pansing Brooks “has proven that she will always use her voice to fight for not only those kids and families, but all Nebraskans.”

Flood also is a capable, experienced, thoughtful public servant. He served effectively as speaker of the Nebraska Legislature during his first eight years as a state senator before being term-limited out. Two years ago, he won his current legislative seat. He’s also a businessman, running a network of radio and television stations across the state. He’s committed to boosting Nebraska’s economy, including in rural areas.

The 1st District is fortunate to have two serious, quality candidates. After lengthy discussion and careful consideration, our editorial board is recommending Pansing Brooks.

As we said about the Nebraska governor’s race, we don’t make endorsements to substitute our views for those of our readers. Instead, we want to offer our perspective and thinking as something readers might want to consider as they make their own choices.

Democrats generally will find more common ground on policy with Pansing Brooks; Republicans generally will find themselves aligned with Flood.

Beyond that, however, three factors account for our preference for Pansing Brooks in this election: the scourge of excessive partisanship and anti-democracy impulses; the need for compassionate immigration policies; and the value of moderation in reproductive rights.

We see Pansing Brooks as more likely to produce better outcomes in these areas.

Particularly since the 2020 election, democracy has been under attack. Former President Donald Trump’s ongoing, unsubstantiated claims that he won the election have eroded faith in the electoral process. Those falsehoods spurred the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol that attempted to overturn President Joe Biden’s victory, and they’ve led to other efforts to restrict voting.

Trump remains the leading voice in the Republican Party, actively supporting candidates who deny election results that go against them. He and his allies reject compromise and embrace conspiracy theories.

Thankfully, Flood acknowledges that Biden is president and was duly elected, with no evidence of fraud found by any court. And Flood’s record as a state senator suggests that he can work with Democrats when he wants.

But unlike the Nebraska Legislature, the U.S. House of Representatives is run strictly by the majority party. Flood’s election would help put the GOP in charge, and likely elevate a disruptive, uncompromising wing of the Republican Party — the likes of Marjorie Taylor Greene and Lauren Boebert. Our democracy would not be better off when those angry voices are amplified.

Electing Pansing Brooks would keep Democrats in charge, and we know some of our readers might not see that as an ideal outcome. But from our perspective, she would be a welcome voice in Washington for bipartisanship and real problem solving to benefit all Nebraskans.

On immigration, Pansing Brooks would offer a more compassionate approach to dealing this longstanding issue. For example, Flood doesn’t support the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, saying that it runs contrary to the “rule of law.” Pansing Brooks is more willing to find a permanent citizenship solution for young immigrants who were brought to the United States as children and whose lives are here.

And on abortion, this year’s Supreme Court ruling that overturned the Roe v. Wade right to abortion has elevated this as a major issue for this election. Flood favors a ban on abortion. Previously, he backed an exception only for the life of the mother and did not carve out exceptions for rape and incest; more recently, he has said he would accept those exceptions as a way to win consensus for a ban.

Flood’s position on reproductive rights doesn’t allow for the diversity of opinion in Nebraska on this controversial topic. Polls have shown that the public is divided on the issue, and Pansing Brooks’ support for abortion rights would help keep Congress from adopting uncompromising anti-abortion policies.

For those reasons, we think 1st District voters should consider a vote for Patty Pansing Brooks.

Patty Pansing Brooks for Congress 2022 (copy)

Pansing Brooks

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