Debra Lynelle Fischer (née Strobel; born March 1, 1951) is an American politician serving as the senior United States senator from Nebraska, a seat she has held since 2013. She was elected to the Senate in 2012 and reelected in 2018. Fischer previously served in the Nebraska Legislature, representing the 43rd legislative district for two terms from 2005 to 2013. She is a member of the Republican Party and the first woman elected to a full term as a U.S. senator from Nebraska.

Early life, education, and career

Fischer was born Debra Lynelle Strobel on March 1, 1951, in Lincoln, Nebraska. She is the daughter of Florence M. (née Bock) and Gerold Carl “Jerry” Strobel.[2][3] Her father was the State Engineer/Director of the Nebraska Department of Roads under Governors Kay Orr and Ben Nelson and her mother was an elementary school teacher with Lincoln Public Schools.[2]

In 1972, Strobel married Bruce Fischer, from Valentine, whom she met at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln.[2][3] She and her husband raised three sons on the Fischer family cattle ranch south of Valentine.[2][3] In 1987, she returned to the university and completed her B.S. degree in education.[3]

School board (1990–2004)

In 1990, Fischer was elected to the Valentine Rural High School Board of Education, serving until 2004. Governor Mike Johanns appointed Fischer as a Commissioner to the Nebraska Coordinating Commission for Post-Secondary Education from 2000 to 2004.[4]

Nebraska Legislature (2005–2013)


In 2004, Fischer ran for the Nebraska Legislature from the 43rd legislative district in the state’s Sandhills region. In the nonpartisan primary, she came in second in a field of seven, receiving 2226 votes (25.1%); front-runner Kevin T. Cooksley received 2264 votes (25.5%). In the general election, she defeated Cooksley with 8178 votes to his 8050, for a margin of 50.4%–49.6%.[5]

In 2008, she won re-election unopposed.[6] Nebraska’s term-limits law precluded her running for re-election in 2012.[7]


Fischer’s district was geographically the largest in the Nebraska Legislature, comprising 12 counties and part of a 13th.[8] During her tenure in the legislature, she did a weekly radio show on seven stations covering her district, and wrote a weekly column printed in several newspapers.[9]

In 2007, she helped to filibuster a bill that created a statewide smoking ban for indoor workplaces and public places.[10]

In 2009, Fischer was one of fourteen co-sponsors of L.B. 675, which required abortion providers to display ultrasound images of the fetus at least one hour prior to the abortions, in a position where the abortion seeker could easily view them. A spokesman for the National Right to Life Committee stated that the Nebraska law was stronger than those of other states, which only required that the client be asked if she wanted to see an ultrasound image. The measure passed by a 40–5 vote, and was signed into law by Governor Dave Heineman.[11]

Fischer served as chairwoman for the Transportation and Telecommunications Committee[12] and helped pass the BUILD Nebraska Act through the Unicameral. This bill prioritized a quarter cent of the state sales tax for infrastructure projects.[13]

U.S. Senate (2013–present)


2012 election


In January 2012, after incumbent Democratic Senator Ben Nelson announced his retirement, Fischer officially announced she would run for the U.S. Senate.[14] The Republican primary campaign was expected to shape up as a battle between Attorney General Jon Bruning and State Treasurer Don Stenberg; Fischer and three less well-known candidates were also on the ballot.[15][16]

During the primary campaign, Fischer was criticized by environmentalists and others because her family’s ranch near Valentine grazed cattle on federal land, leasing it for about $110,000 per year less than the market rate on private land. Opponents of federal grazing leases argued that she should relinquish her family’s permit if she wants to remain “morally consistent” with her message of less government. Fischer argued that the poor quality of federal lands, plus the restrictions that come with federal leases, make it inappropriate to compare them to private leases.[17]

Throughout the campaign, Fischer was outspent by Bruning, who raised $3.6 million, and Stenberg, who spent $865,000. Fischer’s campaign raised only $440,000. However, Bruning and Stenberg spent much of their resources attacking one another; Fischer benefitted from the damage that each did to the other’s approval ratings. She was also aided by $725,000 in television ads bought by the Club for Growth attacking Bruning. Shortly before the election, she was endorsed by Nebraska U.S. Representative Jeff Fortenberry and by 2008 Vice-Presidential candidate Sarah Palin, who recorded robocalls endorsing her; and a super PAC financed by former Omaha businessman Joe Ricketts paid for $250,000 worth of television advertising promoting Fischer and opposing Bruning.[15][18]

Fischer won the primary election with 40% of the vote. Bruning ranked second with 35%, and Stenberg ranked third with 18%. Fischer took a plurality of votes in 75 of Nebraska’s 93 counties. Bruning won 15 counties and Schuyler businessman Pat Flynn received a plurality in his home Colfax County. Fischer and Bruning tied in Kimball and Sioux counties.[16][19]

General election

In the general election, Fischer faced Democrat Bob Kerrey, a former Nebraska governor and U.S. senator, who was running for the seat that he had held from 1989 to 2001.

In the course of the campaign, Kerrey’s advertising accused Fischer of unprincipled conduct in the matter of a 1995 adverse possession suit, whereunder the Fischers had attempted to obtain title to 104 acres (42 ha) of land adjoining their property.[20] Fischer maintained that their intent in filing the suit was to obtain a more manageable boundary for their ranch, after repeated attempts to purchase the land had failed; an Omaha World-Herald analysis stated that the Kerrey campaign’s statements regarding Fischer’s actions in the Legislature failed to mention her support for a compromise measure that would have allowed NGPC to buy the land.[21] A Fischer spokesman accused Kerrey of “reckless disregard for the truth” and “gutter politics” in the matter.[20]

In the general election, Fischer defeated Kerrey 58%–42%. Fischer won mainly by swamping Kerrey in the state’s rural areas. She won 88 of Nebraska’s 93 counties. Kerrey only won Douglas, Lancaster, Saline, Thurston, and Dakota counties.[22]

2018 election

Fischer was re-elected to the U.S. Senate in 2018, defeating Democratic challenger Jane Raybould by a significant margin.[23]


Fischer with Judge Brett Kavanaugh in July 2018

Fischer became the third female U.S. Senator in Nebraska’s history, and the first since 1954.[24][25] She was the first elected to a full term: of the earlier woman Senators, Eva Bowring was appointed in 1954 to occupy the seat vacated by the death of Dwight Griswold until a special election could be held to replace him later that year;[26] Hazel Abel won that special election to finish Griswold’s term, but did not seek a full term.[27]

Fischer has expressed support for an amendment to the U.S. Constitution limiting senators to two six-year terms and representatives to three two-year terms. She pledged to “limit herself to two terms in office”. She further stated that members of the U.S. Congress should be placed under a lifetime ban from becoming federally registered lobbyists.[28][better source needed]

Committee assignments

Political positions

The American Conservative Union’s Center for Legislative Accountability gives Fischer a lifetime rating of 81.12.[31] The politically liberal Americans for Democratic Action gave her a 2019 score of 0%.[32]

Climate change

Fischer rejects conclusions by the international scientific community that human emissions of greenhouse gases are the primary cause of global warming in recent decades. In May 2015, a legislative aide said, “the senator acknowledges the climate is changing but believes it is due to natural cycles.”[33][34]

Gun access

After the 2016 Orlando nightclub shooting, Fischer said any legislative proposals to restrict people on the terrorist watchlist from buying guns would not stop mass shootings. She said that preventing self-radicalization was more important than restricting gun access.[35]

Border control

Fischer supports sending more troops to patrol the United States-Mexico border and opposes college benefits for undocumented immigrants.[36][better source needed]

LGBTQ rights

In June 2020, Fischer expressed support for the Supreme Court decision in Bostock v. Clayton County that “extended Civil Rights Act protections to gay, lesbian and transgender workers”, saying, “It’s important that we recognize that all Americans have equal rights under our Constitution. I’m fine with it.”[37]

2020 presidential election

Before the January 6, 2021, United States Electoral College vote count, Fischer announced that she would vote to certify the election results.[38] Fischer was on Capitol Hill to participate in the count when Trump supporters stormed the U.S. Capitol. During the attack, Fischer tweeted that “These rioters have no constitutional right to harm law enforcement and storm our Capitol. We are a nation of laws, not some banana republic. This must end now.”[39]

On May 28, 2021, Fischer voted against creating an independent commission to investigate the 2021 United States Capitol attack.[40]

Personal life

Fischer and her husband Bruce operate a family ranch, Sunny Slope Ranch, near Valentine, Nebraska. Their adult sons Adam, Morgan, and Luke own the majority of the stock in the family corporation, while the elder Fischers retain a minority share. In 2020, Fischer and her husband moved to Lincoln, Nebraska.[41]

Electoral history

2012 U.S. Senate primary election results, Nebraska[42]
Republican Deb Fischer 79,941 41.0
RepublicanJon Bruning70,06735.9
RepublicanDon Stenberg36,72718.8
RepublicanPat Flynn5,4132.8
RepublicanSpencer Zimmerman1,6010.8
RepublicanSharyn Elander1,2940.7
Total votes195,043 100
2012 U.S. Senate general election results, Nebraska[43]
RepublicanDeb Fischer 455,593 57.77% +21.65%
DemocraticBob Kerrey332,97942.23%-21.65%
Total votes788,572 100.0% N/A
Republican gain from Democratic
2018 U.S. Senate primary election results, Nebraska[44]
Republican Deb Fischer (incumbent) 128,157 75.79%
RepublicanTodd F. Watson19,66111.63%
RepublicanJack Heidel9,4135.57%
RepublicanJeffrey Lynn Stein6,3803.77%
RepublicanDennis Frank Macek5,4833.24%
Total votes169,094 100%
2018 U.S. Senate general election results, Nebraska[45]
RepublicanDeb Fischer (incumbent) 403,151 57.69% -0.08%
DemocraticJane Raybould269,91738.62%-3.61%
LibertarianJim Schultz25,3493.63%N/A
Total votes698,883 100% N/A
Republican hold

See also


  1. ^ Marriages
  2. ^ a b c d McCARTHY, MARK (December 24, 2019). “Senator Deb Fischer: ‘I love public policy making’. Retrieved February 21, 2020.
  3. ^ a b c d Dianne G. Bystrom; Barbara Burrell (December 31, 2018). Women in the American Political System: An Encyclopedia of Women as Voters, Candidates, and Office Holders [2 volumes]. ABC-CLIO. p. 160. ISBN 978-1-61069-974-7.
  4. ^ “Biographical Directory of the U.S. Congress – Retro Member details”.
  5. ^ “Official Report of the Board of Canvassers of the State of Nebraska: Primary Election, May 11, 2004 and General Election, November 2, 2004”. Archived March 6, 2016, at the Wayback Machine Nebraska Library Commission. pp. 31 (primary) and 30 (general). Retrieved 2013-01-14.
  6. ^ “Official Report of the Board of Canvassers of the State of Nebraska: General Election, November 4, 2008”. Archived March 5, 2016, at the Wayback Machine Nebraska Library Commission. p. 17. Retrieved 2013-01-14.
  7. ^ Hansen, Matthew. “Deb Fischer’s path to politics fueled by grit, determination”. Archived October 23, 2012, at the Wayback Machine Omaha World-Herald. 2012-09-30. Retrieved 2013-01-13.
  8. ^ “U.S. Senate candidate makes final rounds before Primary”. The Imperial Republican. Imperial, Nebraska. Retrieved May 16, 2012.
  9. ^ “Senator moonlights as cowpoke on weekends”. Unicameral Update. 2005-01-26. Retrieved 2013-01-13.
  10. ^ Young, JoAnne. “Lawmakers give first-round OK to smoking ban”. Lincoln Journal Star. 2007-03-05. Retrieved 2013-01-13.
  11. ^ “Nebraska Lawmakers Pass Abortion Ultrasound Bill”. Fox News. 2009-05-29. Retrieved 2013-01-13.
  12. ^ Bureau, Joseph Morton / World-Herald. “Deb Fischer taps Nebraska companies for transportation hearing”.
  13. ^ “Investing in Infrastructure | Office of Governor Pete Ricketts”.
  14. ^ Thayer, John. “Senator Deb Fischer Files for U.S. Senate”. KSCR-AM. 2012-02-01. Retrieved 2012-05-16.
  15. ^ a b Tysver, Robynn. “Fischer trips Bruning, will take on Kerrey for Senate seat”. Kearney Hub. 2012-05-16. Retrieved 2012-06-16.
  16. ^ a b “Official Report of the Board of State Canvassers of the State of Nebraska: Primary Election, May 15, 2012”. Nebraska Secretary of State. pp. 15–18. Retrieved 2013-01-13.
  17. ^ Tysver, Robynn. “Critics: Subsidy benefits Fischer”. Omaha World-Herald. 2011-10-23. Retrieved 2011-12-07.
  18. ^ “2012 House and Senate Campaign Finance for Nebraska: Stenberg for Senate 2012 Committee”. Federal Election Commission. 2012-09-30. Retrieved 2013-01-13.
  19. ^ Blum, Julie. “Flynn takes 2nd run at U.S. Senate”. Columbus Telegram. 2012-03-12. Retrieved 2013-01-14.
  20. ^ a b Wetzel, Diane. “Kerrey critical of Fischer’s treatment of neighbor”. North Platte Telegraph. 2012-10-16. Retrieved 2013-01-09.
  21. ^ Tysver, Robynn, and Matthew Hansen. “‘Perfect’ land at heart of Fischer dispute with neighbors”. Archived November 2, 2012, at the Wayback Machine Omaha World-Herald. 2012-10-28. Retrieved 2013-01-09.
  22. ^ “Official Report of the Board of State Canvassers of the State of Nebraska: General Election, November 6, 2012”. Nebraska Secretary of State. p. 12. Retrieved 2013-01-14.
  23. ^ Sanderford, Aaron (November 6, 2018). “Deb Fischer cruises to win over Raybould, returning to U.S. Senate”. Retrieved March 17, 2020.
  24. ^ White, Steve. “Fischer Win Makes Clean Sweep for Nebraska GOP”. Archived March 4, 2016, at the Wayback Machine Nebraska.TV (ABC) 2012-11-14. Retrieved 2013-06-07.
  25. ^ Weiner, Rachel (May 16, 2012). “How Deb Fischer pulled an upset in Nebraska”. The Washington Post. Retrieved May 16, 2012.
  26. ^ “Bowring, Eva Kelly”. Biographical Directory of the United States Congress. Retrieved 2013-06-07.
  27. ^ “Abel, Hazel Hempel”. Biographical Directory of the United States Congress. Retrieved 2013-06-07.
  28. ^ “The Voter’s Self Defense System”. Vote Smart. Retrieved April 15, 2018.
  29. ^ “Committee Members – U.S. Senate Select Committee on Ethics”. Retrieved April 23, 2021.
  30. ^ “Committee Assignments – United States Senator Deb Fischer for Nebraska”.
  31. ^ “Sen. Deb Fischer”. American Conservative Union Foundation. Retrieved May 5, 2021.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  32. ^ “ADA Voting Records | Americans for Democratic Action”. Retrieved May 5, 2021.
  33. ^ Kim Morrow (May 16, 2015). “Local view: climate change has arrived in Nebraska”. Lincoln Journal Star.
  34. ^ “Nebraska’s climate change deniers”. April 25, 2017.
  35. ^ Morton, Joseph. “Nebraska, Iowa Senate Republicans say Dems’ gun proposals are unlikely to halt future attacks”. Omaha World-Herald. Retrieved October 5, 2017.
  36. ^ “Deb Fischer on Immigration”. Retrieved January 30, 2019.
  37. ^ Everett, Burgess; Levine, Marianne (June 15, 2020). “GOP backs Gorsuch’s LGBTQ decision after conservative blowback”. Politico. Retrieved September 19, 2020.
  38. ^ ‘I will uphold my oath’: Nebraska Sen. Deb Fischer says widespread voter fraud not proven in 2020 election”. KETV. January 5, 2021. Retrieved January 14, 2021.
  39. ^ ‘This must end now’: Nebraska Sen. Deb Fischer condemns ‘rioters’ storming US Capitol”. KETV. January 6, 2021. Retrieved January 14, 2021.
  40. ^ “Which senators supported a Jan. 6 Capitol riot commission”. Washington Post. May 28, 2021.
  41. ^ Reed, Leslie. “Fischer: Don’t count me out”. Omaha World-Herald. 2012-04-21. Retrieved 2012-05-19.
  42. ^ “Official Report of the Board of State Canvassers of the State of Nebraska” (PDF). Secretary of State of Nebraska. Retrieved March 17, 2020.
  43. ^ “2012 U.S. Senate General Election Results” (PDF). Nebraska Secretary of State. Retrieved March 17, 2020.
  44. ^ “2018 Nebraska primary election results” (PDF). Retrieved March 17, 2020.
  45. ^ “2018 Nebraska primary election results” (PDF). Retrieved March 17, 2020.

Further reading

External links

Party political offices
Preceded by

Republican nominee for U.S. Senator from Nebraska
(Class 1)

2012, 2018
Most recent
U.S. Senate
Preceded by

U.S. Senator (Class 1) from Nebraska
Served alongside: Mike Johanns, Ben Sasse
U.S. order of precedence (ceremonial)
Preceded by

as United States Senator from Wisconsin

Order of precedence of the United States
as United States Senator from Nebraska

since January 3, 2013
Succeeded by

as United States Senator from New Mexico

Preceded by

United States senators by seniority
Succeeded by