CV INTERVIEW: Don Stenberg defended life before the Supreme Court – now he wants to fight in the Senate

I spoke recently with Nebraska State Treasurer Don Stenberg. He previously served three terms as Attorney General. Stenberg narrowly lost to Ben Nelson in the 2000 Senate race. Senator Nelson, D-NE, made national headlines by casting a vote in favor of Obamacare. But to rematch Nelson, Stenberg must first beat Attorney General Jon Bruning for the Republican nomination. To learn more about Don Stenberg, visit

Why are you running for the United States Senate?

I’m running for the United States Senate because our country is going in the wrong direction and we have to get back on track.

I think there’s a number of reasons we’re heading in the wrong direction. Our elected officials in Washington appear incapable of restraining federal spending. Congress routinely imposes unfunded mandates on the states. Congress has turned much of the lawmaking function over to the bureaucrats. Many members of Congress have lost touch with the American people because they’ve been in Washington too long. Sadly, court decisions have overturned a number of traditional values.

I want to go to Washington to work on all those problems.

Speaking of the courts, your name was on a landmark Supreme Court case, Stenberg v. Carhart, in 2000. Now you argued that case yourself before the Court, right?

That’s right. I argued that case personally in the U.S. Supreme Court. The background of the case most of your readers are probably well aware. Nebraska was one of the early states to pass a statutory ban on partial-birth abortions. By the time we got to the Supreme Court, I think 30 or 31 states had passed statutes banning partial-birth abortions.

We were granted cert and the Court agreed to hear our case. And I argued that case. I think the most important thing I can say [about the case] is that it matters who sits on the Supreme Court. The partial-birth abortion case is an ideal example of that. Sadly, we lost on a 5-4 decision. Justice O’Connor cast the deciding vote. Just a few years later, Congress passed a partial-birth abortion ban. And that was argued in the U.S. Supreme Court a few years after Stenberg v. Carhart. In that case, Justice Alito had replaced Justice O’Connor. And the Chief Justice had been replaced as well, although that didn’t enter into it.

And even though the arguments were essentially the same and the statutes were the same, the Court in that case upheld the federal ban on partial-birth abortions. It just underscores how tremendously important it is who sits on the United States Supreme Court.

You went up against Ben Nelson in 2000. The polls had you down 30 points, but by Election Day you almost got the better of him, losing 50.9 to 49.1. Looking for a re-match now, you first have to get through the Republican primary. Your campaign literature calls you a “lifelong conservative.” Tell me what you mean by that.

I do have a number of Republican opponents in this primary, but my major opponent is the current attorney general. He’s kind of the establishment candidate – has the establishment money. But he’s a conservative of convenience. He was a liberal Democrat who supported gun-control, abortion rights, affirmative action, and homosexual scout masters among other things. Then he decided to run for office in the conservative state of Nebraska and now he says he’s a conservative.

But Freedom Works, Sen. Mike Lee, the Madison Project, radio talk show host Mark Levin, conservative blogger Erick Erickson – none of them are convinced. That’s why they and a number of other conservatives are endorsing the lifelong conservative in this race. I think the importance of each of those endorsements is that these organizations and individuals have closely researched all the candidates in this Republican primary and reached the conclusion that Don Stenberg is the one that can be counted on to be a conservative voice once he gets to Washington.

Now recent media reports have suggested that Ben Nelson might not even be that interested in seeking another term. Is that just a headfake? Or has his Obamacare vote become that unpopular in Nebraska?

Sen. Ben Nelson announced support for Obamacare in a deal dubbed the "Cornhusker Kickback."

It’s hard to say for sure what Nelson will do. He has expressed some hand-wringing. But he has $3 million cash on hand in his account. He hired a campaign manager last spring. He certainly appears to be a candidate. The Democrats have spent $1 million in advertising here in Nebraska to try and prop him up.

This election is tremendously different than the one I barely lost to him in 2000. In that race, he was a popular former governor. He had no Senate voting record. All the polls showed that he started 30 points ahead of me. And we were still able to turn in the closest U.S. Senate race in Nebraska history.

In this race, I have lead Ben Nelson in every single poll since December 2010, which was before I even became a candidate. We beat Nelson consistently by three to six points. And that’s after they spent $1 million trying to make him look good.

He has an extremely unpopular voting record here in Nebraska. First and foremost is his vote for Obamacare. Certainly the single biggest vote he ever cast.

A lot of people across the nation are familiar with Nelson’s vote on Obamacare. But many pro-lifers might be surprised to find out that Nelson also voted to keep federal funding for Planned Parenthood.

Well, he did. And between those two votes, it’s going to cost him the pro-life support that he’s always had.

We were co-endorsed in 2000 by Nebraska Right to Life. We tried to warn them at the time, based on his appointments to the judiciary, the fact that he never showed up for a pro-life rally in his entire life — that he shouldn’t have been supported. But they did split the endorsement. Had we got a sole right-to-life endorsement, we would have beat him in 2000.

So that’s another important difference. And there are other votes, like the Dodd-Frank vote has really upset the bankers and many others who have to live with that heavy-handed regulation. And there’s also the vast number of new regulations from OSHA and EPA that Obama has pushed. And Nelson has been an Obama supporter and has a voting record to prove it.



  • Andy Kirchoff

    Did not know all those salient facts about Jon Bruning being an ex-liberal. Given his recent talking points, which make him sound like a pandering politician, I guess I shouldn’t be surprised, though.

    I did not know about Mr. Stenberg before this interview, but given his obviously strong pro-life convictions I am certainly leaning towards him now, but I would like to hear his position on immigration. I am happy to hear he supports immigration as a general principle, but I would like to know his position on mandatory e-verify, DREAM Act, a guest worker program, and other issues.

    • Don

      Jon Bruning is the true conservative in this race. He’s been a rock-solid Attorney General and the liberal comments Don puts front and center are from when Bruning was in college. Did you ever say anything dumb in college, Andy? Bruning is leading the lawsuit against Obamacare and is the only candidate who can beat Ben Nelson. This is the 4th time Stenberg has run, and it’s a terrible idea for us to support him again, unless we want to lose the seat.

    • JAN

      Jon B’s rep & past is pretty widly known. More folks are learning more every day. Don Stenbgerg has my vote. He is SOLID CONSERVATIVE. Don was our Attorney General and he was AWESOME !

  • davide

    I don’t think Americans are ready to repeal Roe vs Wade. Think most Americans are comfortable with the status quo, as yesterday’s defeat of a pro-life bill in Mississippi proved. America is continuing to regress. I don’t think the moral fiber of most secular ‘democracies’ can NOT be repaired. Think the only valid solutions is absolute Catholic Monarcy.


      Dear Davide~ I would think that if Americans aren’t ready for a repeal of Roe, they sure won’t go for a Catholic monarchy, though Vatican City doe seem to be better run than the US, what with a stable economy,no wars etc. I thinK you make my point that the best way to greatly reduce abortions in this country is to convince women not to have them and provide them with support to make the right choice ~ Best wishes for the new year to you and your family, Greg



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