Deb Fischer’s movements on the floor of the Nebraska Legislature were often tracked by lawmakers and lobbyists alike, nervous about what the Republican state senator was up to as she chatted one by one with colleagues.
When Fischer was on the move — working the floor of the Legislature like a lobbyist at a cocktail party — it often meant she was corralling votes to either oppose or support a bill.
And it often meant a bill’s future hung in the balance.
“When it came to building relationships in our body and corralling and whipping votes, she was very skilled,” said State Sen. Heath Mello, a Democrat from Omaha. “She worked the legislative floor better than anyone I’ve ever seen.”
Fischer is running for U.S. Senate against Democrat Bob Kerrey. Fischer has been portrayed in the race as a political ideologue who sought Tea Party favorite Sarah Palin’s endorsement and who signed a no-tax pledge put forth by Grover Norquist of the group Americans for Tax Reform. But her days in the Legislature paint a more complex picture of a state senator who learned how to build coalitions of support by building relationships.
She was no show horse, favoring private conversations with colleagues to heated and high-profile debates on the legislative floor. She never once held a press conference during eight years in the Legislature.
She also didn’t care much for compromise — but would, when absolutely necessary. The bill she brought to the floor of the Legislature was the bill she expected to get passed. Only when she faced certain defeat would she consider a compromise, said State Sen. Bill Avery, a Democrat from Lincoln.
“She’s tough as nails,” said Avery. “She would not compromise until she was fully convinced she didn’t have the votes to get what she wanted.”
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