OMAHA(KPTM)--Four contenders in the Congressional Republican race met face to face Friday morning in the first and only debate of the primary.
Three of the candidates are looking to unseat Lee Terry, who is currently serving his 7th term in the House of Representatives.
Running against Terry are candidates Jack Heidel, a math professor at the University of Nebraska at Omaha; Brett Lindstrom, a former Husker Football player turned financial advisor; Glenn Freeman, a former Nebraska GOP chairman. Not at the debate was Paul Anderson, a railroad worker.
The League of Women Voters sponsored the event held at the Omaha Press Club.
The topics at the debate did not stray far from most Republican talking points. Tax reform and the deficit got the most attention, but health reform a.k.a. "Obamacare", cutting government programs and the Keystone XL Pipeline had some play as well.
The debate kicked off with the contestants talking about why they should replace Terry.
"If you're going to change or fix the problems in this country, you're going to have to change the problem solvers," explained Lindstrom.
"We simply need new leadership in Congress, more people who are absolutely focused and serious about eliminating the deficit," said Heidel, who has focused his campaign on reducing spending and reforming the budget process.
"When Mr. Terry first went to Congress in 1999, the national debt was six trillion dollars. Now it is over 16 trillion dollars and growing rapidly," he said. "You and I and our children will be paying interest on this huge debt forever,"
He says one of the first things he would like to see done is a 10% cut to every federal department. He says this is the most fair way to cut down spending.
He also says all types of income should be taxed equally and, at the same time, deductions should be thrown out.
The candidates looking to replace Terry on the Republican ticket have an uphill battle until voters hit the polls for the primary.
Terry has raised nearly a million dollars, according to numbers from the Federal Election Commission. Heidel is the closest contender. He has just over $60,000 in his coffers.
According to statistics from political advisors, incumbents win congressional elections 93% of the time.
But Lindstrom is confident in his chances.
"There's definitely an anti-incumbent sentiment out there and it's just coming to a head," he says.
Other candidates are focusing more on reforming the tax code for individuals.
Glenn Freeman is advocating for a national sales tax. He says it is the only tax that is constitutionally allowed.
"If you buy it, you pay it. If you don't buy it, you don't pay it," said Freeman.
He kicked off the debate by saying that there is only one problem in America, but many issues.
"The problem that we have is we elect individuals who come and tell us that they're going to do all kinds of things for us, but what they don't tell us and what they should do is support the constitution," said Freeman.
He says he would enforce a bill requiring that every piece of legislation introduced include the part of the constitution justifying it. He says he would also amend any existing legislation to align with the constitution.
Brett Lindstrom says his main focuses will be maintaining social security.
"Politicians have been raiding that for years and we need to get that out of the general fund so that we can have that for future generations and I'll be willing to do that for you," he said.
One of the other key points he brought up multiple times during the debate was lowering the corporate tax code. He says America has one of the highest tax rates in the world and he believes it should be lowered so companies can maintain a global competition.
But he also says he wants to get rid of corporate deductions and loopholes.
A sentiment echoed by Rep. Lee Terry.
"We need to have a tax code that allows [corporations] to be competitive in a global environment and that's why I voted for a flatter, simpler tax, removing all the special-interest tax breaks," he said.
Terry was the only candidate to bring up energy reform.
"I think the crux, foundational piece of a growing economy has to be energy. Using our own national resources in the United States will create millions of jobs, keep a billion dollars a day in the United States that we send overseas, the issue is do we have the will to do this," Terry asked the crowd.
He says he wants more than just "drill, baby, drill". He says he wants the country looking more at bio fuels, natural gas and locally drilled oil.
Toward the end of the debate, Terry attacked Lindstrom for opposing the Keystone XL Pipeline. He said a press release sent out by the candidate looked "just like the Podesta memo". John Podesta is the President of Center for American Progress, a liberal think tank.
He read aloud from the release: "Pushing the Keystone XL Pipeline is both bad policy and bad politics" adding "If you've changed your position, then I'll accept that,"
Lindstrom countered: "I think we need to make sure that oil stays here domestically, there's no guarantees,"
Terry currently serves on the Committee on Energy and Commerce.
The primary is May 15.
For more information on Rep. Lee Terry, visit www.leeterry.com
For more information on Brett Lindstrom, visit www.lindstromforcongress.com
For more information on Glenn Freeman, visit www.freeman4congress.org
For more information on Jack Heidel, visit http://www.jackheidel.com
Paul Anderson's campaign does not have a web site.
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