When it comes to his priorities, Dennis Crawford, who is seeking the Democratic nomination for U.S. Congress District 1, says the economy is the focus.
The District 1 seat is currently held by Republican Jeff Fortenberry.
Crawford, a lawyer from Lincoln, is making his first bid for election because “Washington is broken,” he said.
“A lot of decisions are hurting the economy, causing us to lose jobs,” said Crawford. The economy is not growing fast enough, and “job-killing gridlock” is a major problem, he said.
Decisions being made in Congress “are not helping Nebraskans,” he said, citing the failure to pass the Farm Bill and the government shut down as examples. Both resulted from “partisan gridlock,” he said.
During a visit to Nebraska City, Crawford said Fortenberry is part of the problem. Although Fortenberry seems to be “reasonable and moderate” when expressing his views to Nebraskans, Crawford said the congressman’s voting record has been more aligned with the “extreme elements” of his party when it came to shutting down the government and hampering efforts to quickly reopen it.
Crawford also took issue with Fortenberry’s votes to privatize Medicare and turn it “into a voucher program” that he said would cost seniors $6,000 a year in out of pocket expenses and put the health insurance industry back in charge.
The 2011 sequester greatly hurt the economy, said Crawford, by creating furloughs and costing an estimated 1.6 million jobs in 2014.
“We can do better than the mediocrity and partisanship” that has become commonplace in Washington, said Crawford.
“My top priority is job creation,” said Crawford, who said investing in infrastructure such as upgrading roads, bridges and the electrical grid, would create 2 million jobs. It’s a stance he said both the American Chamber of Commerce and the AFL-CIO support.
“We need to seek bipartisan solutions,” said Crawford, who also supports investing in renewable energy, citing the jobs that will be created. He said Nebraska has great potential to utilize wind energy. In the end, the investments will help “decrease dependance on foreign oil and help reduce global warming. It’s a win-win for everybody,” he said.
Also on Crawford’s agenda is an increase of the minimum wage to $10 over the course of three years.
To improve the economy, consumer spending is key. Seventy percent of economic activity is from consumer spending, he said.
If the middle class can be boosted, then consumer spending will increase and jobs will be created, said Crawford.
Another priority Crawford discussed was the need to overturn the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United, which allows Super Pac special interest spending to be made in secret. “It drowns out the voice of the middle class,” he said.
Page 2 of 2 - Crawford also said he would support the extension of unemployment compensation benefits, which he said Fortenberry also supports “if it’s paid for”; however, Fortenberry has not offered a means to pay for it, said Crawford. Crawford said he would pay for it by using the funds that in 2011 had been approved as subsidies to the oil industry, which he said Fortenberry supported. The oil industry is making a lot of money so doesn’t need subsidies, he said.
“Extending (the unemployment benefits) is the right thing to do. According to economists, 200,000 jobs will be created,” said Crawford.
Crawford said a 2006 study indicated that $92 billion was spent on “corporate welfare” — “tax breaks and subsidies” to corporations “that don’t need them,” said Crawford. Some of those funds could be used to extend unemployment benefits, he said.
“We need bi-partisan solutions,” said Crawford, who said he wants to work for the middle class, senior citizens and farmers.
Delay in passage of the Farm Bill has caused great uncertainty for farmers.
Efforts to separate food programs from the Farm Bill have only managed to split the urban-rural coalition that was needed to pass the Farm Bill. He chided members of Congress who have the attitude of, “It’s my way or the highway.”
“You can’t get everything you want,” he said.
Congress is “more polarized” than it has been in the past, Crawford said.
Crawford cited the presidencies of Abraham Lincoln and Ronald Reagan as examples of how cooperation can lead to benefits for the economy.
Major legislation in the Lincoln administration, such as the transcontinental railroad, Homestead Act and Land Grant College Act were examples of the public and private sectors working together to create jobs.
Investment in infrastructure will create jobs and help the economy, he said.
About de-regulation helping the economy, Crawford said it is “not a panacea.”
“Deregulation is a mixed bag,” said Crawford, citing the “costly” results of deregulating the banking industry.
To choose between Washington and a free market is a “false choice,” said Crawford. A combination of both factors is needed to creat jobs, he said.
“We need to work as a team,” is his platform, said Crawford.
A campaign kick off and celebration will be held for Crawford from 5-7:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Jan. 22, at the Grata Bar and Lounge, 70th and A, in Lincoln.
Crawford is married with three grown children. He has practiced law since 1986.
He said he is looking forward to the “parade season,” which he will “really hit hard.”