|United States Senator
January 3, 2013
|Preceded by||Ben Nelson|
|Member of the Nebraska Legislature
from the 43rd district
January 3, 2005 – January 3, 2013
|Preceded by||Jim Jones|
|Succeeded by||Al Davis|
March 1, 1951
Lincoln, Nebraska, U.S.
|Education||University of Nebraska, Lincoln (BS)|
Debra "Deb" Strobel Fischer (born March 1, 1951) is the senior United States Senator from the state of Nebraska. Previously, she was a two-term member of the Nebraska Legislature, representing the 43rd District. She defeated former United States Senator Bob Kerrey in the election held on November 6, 2012, and assumed one of Nebraska's two Senate seats in January 2013.
Fischer is a member of the Republican Party.
Fischer was born Debra Strobel in 1951, in Lincoln, Nebraska, the daughter of Florence M. (née Bock) and Gerold Carl "Jerry" Strobel. Her father was the State Engineer/Director of the Nebraska Department of Roads under governors Kay Orr and Ben Nelson and her mother was an elementary school teacher with Lincoln Public Schools.
In 1972, she married Bruce Fischer, from Valentine, whom she had met while both attended the University of Nebraska–Lincoln. She and her husband raised three sons on the Fischer family cattle ranch south of Valentine. In 1988, she returned to the university and completed her B.S. degree in education.
In 2004, Fischer ran for the Nebraska legislature from the 43rd legislative district. In the nonpartisan primary, she came in second in a field of seven, receiving 2226 votes (25.1%); front-runner Kevin T. Cooksley received 2264 votes (25.5%). In the general election, she defeated Cooksley with 8178 votes to his 8050, for a margin of 50.4%–49.6%.
Fischer's district was geographically the largest in the Nebraska Legislature, comprising 12 counties and part of a 13th. During her tenure in the legislature, she did a weekly radio show on seven stations covering her district, and wrote a weekly column printed in several newspapers.
In 2007, she helped to filibuster a bill that created a statewide smoking ban for indoor workplaces and public places.
In 2009, Fischer was one of fourteen co-sponsors of L.B. 675, which required abortion providers to display ultrasound images of the fetus at least one hour prior to the abortions, in a position where the abortion seeker could easily view them. A spokesman for the National Right to Life Committee stated that the Nebraska law was stronger than those of other states, which only required that the client be asked if she wanted to see an ultrasound image. The measure passed by a 40–5 vote, and was signed into law by Governor Dave Heineman.
In January 2012, after incumbent Democratic Senator Ben Nelson announced his retirement, Fischer officially announced she would run for the U.S. Senate. The Republican primary campaign was expected to shape up as a battle between Attorney General Jon Bruning and State Treasurer Don Stenberg; Fischer and three less well-known candidates were also on the ballot.
During the primary campaign, Fischer was criticized by environmentalists and others because her family's ranch near Valentine grazed cattle on federal land, leasing it for about $110,000 per year less than the market rate on private land. Opponents of federal grazing leases argued that she should relinquish her family's permit if she wants to remain "morally consistent" with her message of less government. Fischer argued that the poor quality of federal lands, plus the restrictions that come with federal leases, make it inappropriate to compare them to private leases.
In the campaign, Fischer was outspent by Bruning, who raised $3.6 million, and Stenberg, who spent $865,000. Fischer's campaign raised only $440,000. However, Bruning and Stenberg spent much of their resources attacking one another; Fischer benefitted from the damage that each did to the other's approval ratings. She was also aided by $725,000 in television ads bought by the Club for Growth attacking Bruning. Shortly before the election, she was endorsed by Nebraska U.S. Representative Jeff Fortenberry and by 2008 Vice-Presidential candidate Sarah Palin, who recorded robocalls endorsing her; and a super PAC financed by former Omaha businessman Joe Ricketts paid for $250,000 worth of television advertising promoting Fischer and opposing Bruning.
Fischer won the primary election with 40% of the vote. Bruning ranked second with 35%, and Stenberg ranked third with 18%. Fischer took a plurality of votes in 75 of Nebraska's 93 counties. Bruning won 15 counties and Schuyler businessman Pat Flynn received a plurality in his home Colfax County. Fischer and Bruning tied in Kimball and Sioux counties.
In the general election, Fischer faced Democrat Bob Kerrey, a former Nebraska governor and U.S. senator, who was running for the seat that he had held from 1989 to 2001.
In the course of the campaign, Kerrey's advertising accused Fischer of unprincipled conduct in the matter of a 1995 adverse possession suit, whereunder the Fischers had attempted to obtain title to 104 acres (42 ha) of land adjoining their property. The Kerrey campaign maintained that Fischer, after losing the lawsuit, had used her position in the Legislature to keep the landowners from selling the property to the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission (NGPC). The episode, declared a Kerrey website, had shown "[n]eighbor suing neighbor; vindictiveness; pettiness; deceit; abuse of power". Fischer maintained that their intent in filing the suit was to obtain a more manageable boundary for their ranch, after repeated attempts to purchase the land had failed; an Omaha World-Herald analysis stated that the Kerrey campaign's statements regarding Fischer's actions in the Legislature failed to mention her support for a compromise measure that would have allowed NGPC to buy the land. A Fischer spokesman accused Kerrey of "reckless disregard for the truth" and "gutter politics" in the matter.
In the general election, Fischer defeated Kerrey 58%–42%. Fischer won mainly by swamping Kerrey in the state's rural areas. She won 88 of Nebraska's 93 counties. Kerrey only won Douglas, Lancaster, Saline, Thurston, and Dakota counties.
Fischer became the third female U.S. Senator in Nebraska's history, and the first since 1954. She was the first elected to a full term: of the earlier woman Senators, Eva Bowring was appointed in 1954 to occupy the seat vacated by the death of Dwight Griswold until a special election could be held to replace him later that year; Hazel Abel won that special election to finish Griswold's term, but did not seek a full term.
In Fischer's 2012 campaign materials, she quoted several politicians and editorials describing her as a "true conservative" and a "staunch conservative".
Fischer supports a balanced budget amendment to the U.S. Constitution and has signed Americans for Tax Reform's Taxpayer Protection Pledge promising not to raise taxes on individuals and businesses. She has also declared herself opposed to cuts in entitlement programs for Americans over the age of 40.
In her 2012 campaign materials, Fischer declared, "The EPA must be reformed and possibly eliminated". She stated that current greenhouse-gas regulations needed to be made less restrictive, and expressed her opposition to a cap-and-trade policy.
In Fischer's 2012 campaign materials, she expressed support for an amendment to the U.S. Constitution limiting Senators to two six-year terms, and U.S. Representatives to three two-year terms. She pledged to "limit herself to two terms in office." She also stated that members of the U.S. Congress should be placed under a lifetime ban from becoming federally registered lobbyists.
Fischer's 2012 campaign website states that she "[o]pposes amnesty and benefits for illegal aliens", that she voted against Nebraska's version of the DREAM Act in its passage in 2006, and that she co-sponsored a bill to repeal the state act in 2010.
Fischer voted for reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2013. She voted against Chuck Hagel's nomination as Secretary of Defense. She voted against expanding background checks for gun buyers and other gun control measures.
Fischer and her husband Bruce operate the family ranch, Sunny Slope Ranch, near Valentine, Nebraska. Their adult sons Adam, Morgan, and Luke own the majority of the stock in the family corporation, while the elder Fischers retain a minority share.