Two Democrats Put in Bids for Open U.S. Senate Seat

April 25, 2014, 6:30 a.m. ·

Two Democrats are in the primary running for a shot at Nebraska's open U.S. Senate seat this year. (Photo credit: Capitol Hill, Washington D.C., from Flickr user johrling)

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The Nebraska Senate race is full of candidates—but mostly Republicans. There are only two men in the Democratic primary. As part of our 2014 Campaign Connection coverage, NET News profiles the Democratic primary contenders.

Dave Domina and Larry Marvin share a background common to many Nebraskans. Both candidates were born and raised in rural parts of the state. Both attended college in-state and have military and business experience. And both Democrats are vying for Nebraska’s open U.S. Senate seat.

Dave Domina is a well-known trial lawyer in Omaha who’s been practicing in the state since the 1970s.

“The United States needs to keep its word to its people. And it apparently needs candidates for United States Senate committed to that idea,” Domina said.

He’s never held elected office before, but lost a bid for governor in 1986 in the primary. He said he’ll take a thoughtful and persistent approach to negotiations in Congress if elected.

“I’d say the single most important thing to me is to encourage people as forcefully as I can to distinguish between principals and issues. Principals unite people. Issues divide us,” Domina said.

Dave Domina is a prominent Omaha lawyer. (Photo credit: Larry Ferguson Studios)

Larry Marvin has served on the state central committee and as Cuming County chairman for the Nebraska Democratic Party. He’s currently a landlord and part-time assistant foreman at Fremont Beef in Fremont.

“This is my third try for United States Senate in Nebraska. I think the third time’s the charm,” Marvin said. He also ran in 2012 and 2008, both times earning less than three percent of the vote. Marvin said he keeps running because he wants to fight the narrow-minded influence of special interest groups and the Tea Party.

“We have gun rights people that think gun rights should be their thing, and forget about the rest of our rights. We have anti-abortion people that think anti-abortion is the only thing, and forget about the rest of our rights. Sometimes we have environmentalists that think the environment is this only thing. We focus too much on one thing, and neglect everything else,” Marvin said.

Marvin served in the Air Force and Domina was a lawyer for the Army. Both feel strongly about maintaining a strong military but support cutting wasteful spending. But they disagree about reductions in forces.

“We absolutely have to have a force that is ready enough and prepared while ready to engage in the traditional forms of combat. I’m not in favor of dramatic reductions in forces that compromise that readiness,” Domina said.

Marvin says he’s proud the U.S. has wound down its involvement in Afghanistan and Iraq, “and if you don’t have the war, you don’t need to hire the extra employees. So you could cut the size, and we still have the National Guard and reserves so we can always pull on them.”

Domina said one way to reduce the military budget would be bringing defense systems production and manufacturing back to the U.S., as well as hiring more civilians into the armed forces instead of paying them as government contractors.

Domina said the Affordable Care Act is here to stay; though he’s quick to admit it has flaws, and offer some solutions.

“The statute should have automatically amended existing plans rather than permitting insurance companies to cancel them. And there was no effective financial smoothing process to pass us through the rocky period of time when we were transferring from old market system to new market system,” Domina said.

He believes Medicaid expansion, which he supports but the Nebraska Legislature continues to oppose, should have been handled differently, more like highways.

“All of the states can pass on federal highway funds if they want to be arrogant or rude or coarse or not have good highways. But they pay the price in bad highways and their people know it. That’s how Medicaid should have worked,” Domina said.

Like Domina, Marvin supports the Affordable Care Act and protecting social security benefits.

Larry Marvin is a landlord and part-time assistant foreman for Fremont Beef. (Photo by Ariana Brocious, NET News)

“I’m proud of Patient Protection Affordable Care Act. I’m proud of Social Security, of Medicare. The Republicans want to say that they’re entitlements. They’re not entitlements. We paid into it, it’s our program, we created it, and it is ours. And it’s not an entitlement,” Marvin said.

On the issue of immigration reform, Domina supports giving law-abiding undocumented immigrants already in the country an immediate path to naturalized citizenship. He wants to make it easier and faster for new immigrants to come to the U.S., but base the rates of new immigration on quota systems to ensure we can effectively assimilate them.

“That’s how our country grew to its greatness until well after the second World War, and that’s the way it should continue to exist. And it would prosper by doing that,” Domina said.

Marvin wants to prosecute those who provide false documents to immigrants, which he called “organized crime,” but believes immigration will eventually become a non-issue under his prediction of the opening of U.S. borders through NAFTA (the North American Free Trade Agreement).

Domina said he’s committed to reinvigorating aging rural populations and promoting entrepreneurship among the younger generations.

“I’m a product of rural population. I’m 100% convinced that farm and ranch families produce a different kind of American, who contributes in a different and unique way to the fabric of American life and can’t be lost,” Domina said.

But the voice of this lawyer— who’s leading the lawsuit against TransCanada's proposed route for the Keystone XL pipeline—takes on even more urgency when he talks about climate change, energy, and water.

“The coming collision over water cannot await the collision. It has to be dealt with in advance. There aren’t enough people talking about that. I think the climate change debate needs to have water as its epicenter. And Nebraska, and a strong voice from Nebraska, needs to be at the forefront of that discussion,” Domina said.

Marvin said he’s an active citizen who believes in open government, and is confident he can work with other senators to get things done.

“The polls show we’re very dissatisfied with our government, with Congress, especially. I feel that with both eyes closed and two hands behind my back I can do a better job,” Marvin said.

The scope of these campaigns differs greatly: Domina has a staff, organized outreach and has raised more than $300,000; Marvin is running his own campaign and has raised just over $4,000. The primary election is May 13th.