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Democrat enters Nebraska U.S. Senate race

By   /   January 21, 2014  /   No Comments

By Deena Winter | Nebraska Watchdog

LINCOLN, Neb. — One of Nebraska’s most prominent trial lawyers — a man who is representing landowners battling the proposed Keystone XL oil pipeline — announced Tuesday he’s running for U.S. Senate.

Courtesy photo

DOMINA: Dave Domina has represented Nebraska landowners fighting the proposed Keystone XL oil pipeline that would bisect the state.

Dave Domina’s entrance marks the first prominent Democrat in the race to fill the seat being vacated by U.S. Sen. Mike Johanns. There are already five Republicans and two independents in the hunt.

Domina said he doesn’t believe he’s “late” getting into the race, because as the only Democrat, he’s basically running in the November general election.

“We’ve looked over the field and we think that’s a reason to run,” he said during his kickoff speech at the Capitol.

He said other candidates talk about reaching across the aisle, but he questions why there needs to even be an aisle. Bickering and negativity have taken over from both the left and right, he said, with a lack of leadership and statesmanship.

“We are undeniably in a mess,” he said. “Partisanship has no place now. … Let’s be united in a new coalition of Nebraskans. Not left. Not right. Not reaching across the aisle, but tearing the aisle out.”

It’s not that the Democratic Party is unimportant to him, he said later, but it doesn’t define him.

“I just think people need to get to know me,” he said. “They’re going to find out I’m a Nebraskan, I’m an American and that the label doesn’t fit. The label of Republican or Democrat or idealogue.”

He said the Senate “cannot be stuck in a debate of 40-year-old issues or questions that are ever present in human history.” When asked later which issues he was referring to, he acknowledged it was abortion and “any 40-year-old issue,” referring to Pope Francis’ comments that the Catholic Church shouldn’t act narrowly on issues such as homosexuality and abortion. Domina said the pope has made it clear it’s “time to move on.”

“We need to do that with the Senate,” he said in an interview after his announcement. “Its job is not to perpetuate old issues.”

He also said the Affordable Care Act should be fixed, not repealed, women must “search their soul” and get scientific information before making a decision about abortion and sportsmen should have the right to enjoy weapons, but all constitutional rights have restrictions.

“I don’t think private citizens should have the same weapons that we train our soldiers to use,” he said.

He said the Keystone XL could be built if it’s moved away from the Ogallala Aquifer, is twinned with the existing Keystone One pipeline and is run by a “responsible operator,” not TransCanada, the Canadian company that has been fighting for five years to get the pipeline approved.

Domina got emotional when he began his kickoff speech by saying, “I am a Nebraskan.” Later, he said he’s a “Nebraskan through and through enough to be emotional about it.”

Domina noted he was responsible for getting two Nebraska public officials impeached, represented the state in a complex banking crisis and was the trial lawyer in a case in which Nebraska’s property tax was declared unconstitutional. He was the special prosecutor in the impeachment of former University of Nebraska Regent David Hergert and former Attorney General Paul Douglas in 1984.

His Omaha law firm often represents people taking on large, multi-national corporations, insurance companies and banks. He won a $1.3 billion jury verdict for cattleman against the nation’s largest slaughterhouse accused of manipulating prices, although the verdict was overturned on appeal.

Corporations are not people, he said. and the billionaire class keeps growing while the middle class shrinks.

Five banks shouldn’t hold 65 percent of all money — “we must break them up, not let them break us down,” he said — and crops and livestock shouldn’t be controlled by three companies in each market, or food dominated by three companies.

“We must take back our markets and restore real competition, not pay unfair taxes while Big Money escapes through thousands of tax loopholes in the nation’s revenue bucket,” he said.

Domina said he decided to run for office because there’s a limit to what a lawyer can do to address problems.

He was introduced by Lincoln Mayor Chris Beutler, who ran against Domina in the 1986 Democratic primary for governor. Beutler said Domina, a friend since law school, is a “remarkable man.” When things get hot on the campaign trail, candidates have a tendency to exaggerate, be uncivil and “be at your worst,” Beutler said, due to the enormous pressure. But Domina was always fair, civil and on point, he said.

“With a united approach and a fearless, strong voice to make our case, we can get great things done,” Domina told supporters. “We can take down the oppressive, big corporations. … We can get rid of bad laws. … We can take out dirty politicians.”

Contact Deena Winter at deena@nebraskawatchdog.org.

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Deena Winter has been a journalist for over 20 years, writing stories for the Northwood Gleaner, Bismarck Tribune, Associated Press, Denver Post and Lincoln Journal Star before joining Watchdog.