Democratic senate candidate Bob Kerrey was in North Platte on Monday, part of a campaign swing throughout the state to highlight a new political advertisement that is critical of his opponent's treatment of her neighbors in Cherry County.
State Senator Deb Fischer and her husband Bruce sued their neighbors Les and Betty Kime in 1995, claiming they owned title to land by possession.
"The Fischer's had come to the Kime's and asked if they could use their land for cattle to graze, and as with many other neighbors, the Kime's said yes and didn't charge them which is a substantial favor," Kerrey said. "Rather than say thank you for that favor, the Fischer's sued and attempted by a means called adverse possession to take the land from them. The court ruled decisively in the Kime's favor but it still cost them $40,000 to defend themselves against what turned out to be a hostile neighbor."
Later Fischer made an effort to prevent the Kime's from selling the land to Nebraska Game and Parks, he said.
"Nebraskans need to understand that story as they make a decision about who they want to represent them," Kerrey said. "If a neighbor treated you that way, would you want them to represent you in the U.S. Senate?"
The ad features testimonies and first-hand accounts from Valentine residents and neighbors of the Kime and Fischer families. Les and Betty Kime died not long after the lawsuit ended, but the events remain in the memories of many residents.
"Suing your neighbor for their land doesn't reflect the Nebraska values I grew up with and learned," Kerrey said. "State Senator Fischer's actions in this case are deeply troubling. Nebraskans need to know this story."
A crowd of about 30 supporters met the former state governor and two-term U.S. Senator at the North Platte Airport to hear his comments.
Fischer's actions are connected to a central issue in the campaign, he said.
"That issue is what sort of federal budget are you going to support?" he said. "I've been very specific with Nebraskans and said you will not get it done unless there is a shared sacrifice. She [Fischer] signed the Grover Norquist pledge so she doesn't believe in asking people with more than a million dollars in income to share in the sacrifice necessary to get the job done, but she hasn't told Nebraskans about the impact. The language she uses is very much like the language she uses with the Kime's. 'Don't worry, we will keep our commitments to seniors and our obligations to our veterans and we will take care of the military and we will be good to agriculture.' But the budget she supports and particularly the promise she made to Grover Norquist makes it impossible to do those things. The impact to Nebraska of those budget cuts, to Social Security, to our veterans and to our military and to agriculture will make us all feel like the Kimes."
The Kerrey campaign has posted documents related to the Fischer's dispute with the Kime family on a website, fischerlandgrab.com.
"This is a story Nebraskans need to understand," Kerrey said. "It very much connects with the budget. Her rhetoric sounds good, but the impact of her budget proposal will be decidedly negative for the state of Nebraska."
In response to Kerrey's ad, the Fischer campaign issued a press release calling the ad "a shameless negative ad attacking Deb Fischer in a transparent act of desperation."
Fischer spokesman Daniel Keylin said, "It's truly pathetic that Bob Kerrey is now resorting to character assassination to revive his flailing campaign. He's revealing the disturbing depths he'll swoop to in order to win, Before the Fischer's sold a parcel of their land, their lawyer advised them to clarify the land boundaries through the legal system. Mr. Kerrey's reckless disregard for the truth and his desperate attack are the epitome of what's wrong with Washington. Rather than focus on the issues or his record, Mr. Kerrey is turning to the politics of personal destruction. Mr. Kerrey should be ashamed of himself for bringing gutter politics to Nebraska."
In anticipation of the Fischer campaign response to the advertisement, and charging of negative campaigning, Kerrey said everything in the story is fact. It feels negative, he said, because it is.
"Senator Fischer's campaign said it is character assassination, well, I don't disagree with that except I didn't pull the trigger," Kerrey said. "Her own decisions have produced the negative impact on her character and I think it matters. I think there is a connection between the way she is conducting herself in this campaign and the way she conducted herself in this action against her neighbor."