Leading the Charge against Nelson’s Folly
Nebraska attorney general Jon Bruning hopes to unseat Sen. Ben Nelson.


NRO: Are there any state-level or local issues overlooked by those of us in Washington that might prove decisive?

BRUNING: From a spending standpoint, ultimately this is going to focus on Senator Nelson’s votes in Washington. He voted for more regulation for the banking industry. He voted for more regulation for the health-care industry, and ultimately Obamacare will result in a government takeover of health care if it’s allowed to stand. He has voted for continued growth in government time and time again. We’re going to make sure Nebraskans are focused on what he has done.

As far as programs here at the state level, I’m proud of the things we’ve been able to do in our smaller laboratory of democracy. Our consumer [protection] operation here, for example, is very nimble. It’s three times as effective as it was when I took over in 2003: We recover more than a million dollars for Nebraskans every year, and we do that with no extra spending; we use student interns from the University of Nebraska who are here on a volunteer basis and who get college credit. I think it’s the way government should work. Of course, the reaction at the federal level to the consumer scams that go on was to create a Consumer Protection Agency with 1,000 new employees and millions and millions of dollars of spending. In Nebraska, our reaction was to use unpaid interns and solve the problem ourselves without spending more money. I think there are contrasts we can certainly make between what I have done as attorney general and what he’s done in his time in the Senate.

NRO: State treasurer Don Stenberg, who has been mentioned as a possible Senate candidate, is expected to make his official announcement soon. Recognizing that you may not want to get too negative too early, what sets you apart or what makes you unique as a challenger to Nelson?

BRUNING: Don’s a fine person, but Don has run for this three times and been unsuccessful each time. In fact, in 2000, he was the nominee against Ben Nelson in a reasonably good year for Republicans. This is a very red state, and George W. Bush carried Nebraska handily in 2000. And Don Stenberg wasn’t able to win.

I think Nebraskans are generally of the belief that it is time to take a different path to beating Senator Nelson, and I don’t think Don Stenberg is going to be that choice.

The polling we’ve seen showed me ahead, 47 percent to 19 percent. Our internal polling has seen at least that much. I think Nebraskans are ready for someone who has a different type of energy and who can pursue this race in a different fashion.

NRO: Perhaps typical for Politico, they’ve posted excerpts of writings from your law school days, close to 20 years ago, and declared that in law school you were a liberal. I can see somebody trying to make an issue of this, so what’s your response when someone says, “Hey, look at what he wrote in law school”?

BRUNING: Nebraskans know me as a conservative officeholder. I was in the legislature for six years. I’ve been attorney general for now more than eight years. I was first elected in 1996. I have a long history as a conservative. Nebraskans understand that. This race is going to be about Sen. Ben Nelson and his big-government, big-spending, national-debt-creating plan for America. I’m very comfortable with my record as a conservative over the past 15-plus years, having been endorsed by the NRA, Nebraska Right to Life, the state Chamber of Commerce, and taxpayer groups across the state. What I think Nebraskans want to talk about is whether Senator Nelson should be rehired for another term.


Sign up for free NRO e-mails today:

NRO Polls on LockerDome

Subscribe to National Review