By Deena Winter | Nebraska Watchdog
LINCOLN — Some people will do anything to win.
That was state Sen. Deb Fischer’s response to Bob Kerrey’s new orchestrated effort to portray her as a bad neighbor who tried to use the legal system to get her elderly neighbors’ 104 acres some 15 years ago.
“I believe (Kerrey) is resorting to over-the-top attacks, because he doesn’t want to talk about the issues,” said Fischer at a news conference here Tuesday, surrounded by nearly 40 people, including the governor, lawmakers, ranchers and businessmen.
“He’s out of touch with Nebraskans,” the Republican candidate for U.S. Senate said, adding that she’s been called a welfare rancher and weathered attacks on her family in this campaign.
Kerrey’s campaign launched a website, TV ad and statewide news tour Monday to highlight a lawsuit Fischer and her husband filed in 1995. The Fischers argued that because they used the 104 acres, they should be allowed to acquire it through adverse possession, according to court documents. The judge sided with their neighbors, Les and Betty Kime, who have since died.
Fischer said the lawsuit was filed on the advice of her attorney to clarify the boundaries of the Fischers’ land before selling some property. The fence line and deeded boundary didn’t match, she said.
“It happens every day in Nebraska,” she said.
The Kerrey campaign says the Kimes had allowed the Fischers to run cattle on a pasture of theirs near the fence line for years, even though they knew the fence was not in the proper place due to rugged terrain near the Snake River.
After multiple attempts to get the Kimes to trade or sell the land in the 1980s and 1990s, the Fischers tried to get the Kimes to sign a quit claim deed in 1995 and then filed a lawsuit later that year.
Gov. Dave Heineman said Kerrey is using one of the oldest political tricks in the book, because he can’t win on issues like taxes, balanced budgets, abortion and the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.
“Bob Kerrey is losing this race to Deb Fischer and the polls confirm that,” Heineman said during the news conference. “Bob Kerrey’s attacks are a desperate distraction by a desperate candidate who’s losing in the polls.”
Kerrey’s campaign also has accused Fischer of using her seat in the Legislature to settle some scores, co-sponsoring a bill changing the way fence disputes are mediated, and introducing a bill, Democrats say, was designed to derail an attempt by the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission to buy Snake Falls Ranch from the Kimes’ heirs. The sale of their neighbors’ ranch would have affected Fischer’s property value, Democrats say, but she did not file a conflict-of-interest statement with the state.
A private hunting and fishing club couldn’t afford to buy the whole ranch, so it sought help from the Game and Parks Commission, which sought a $2.4 million grant from the Nebraska Environmental Trust.
Fischer’s original bill would have required the fund to transfer $7 million annually to a water fund for 11 years. Fischer said Tuesday that her bill had nothing to do with the potential sale of her neighbors’ land, but was about providing funding for water projects.
Fischer said Tuesday that she did not oppose the sale of the Snake Falls Ranch to the Game and Fish Commission, which would have opened up to the public Nebraska’s largest waterfall and one of the nation’s best trout streams. In the end, a sportsman’s group bought the ranch, so it is privately owned.
Fischer testified against the sale at a Game and Parks informational meeting in October 2010, but said Tuesday that she did so at the request of the Cherry County Commission and disclosed the fact that she owned nearby property.
“I gave no personal opinion on it,” she said.
Another neighbor of Fischer’s Jerry Adamson said he and others were flown here to appear at the news conference, because “when they’re attacking the Fischer family, they’re attacking a lot of us in Cherry County.”
“They are good neighbors,” he said.
Kerrey, a former governor and U.S. senator, has scheduled a news conference Tuesday afternoon.
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