Republican Col. Tom Brewer and democrat Mark Sullivan took to podiums Wednesday.
Third District incumbent Congressman Adrian Smith was absent, but sent a statement that his campaign manager read to the crowd.
Brewer and Sullivan debated the Affordable Care Act, the economy and immigration reform, but the candidates say it's their background they want voters to remember first.
For Brewer, that includes 36 years in the military.
“You're probably more aggressive and more passionate and you have natural leadership because you've been there leading troops in combat. If you look at Congress, there's just not a lot of natural leadership,” he said.
“I think I can do better. I'm a farmer, cattle feeder, lifetime businessman here in central Nebraska. I know the Third District. I know what's going on. I can do it,” said Sullivan.
“The congressman is thrilled to have the endorsement of the Nebraska Right to Life as well as the National Rifle Association; and he's been named a 'Friend of Agriculture' by the Nebraska Farm Bureau, the only candidate for Congress in the Third District to have that designation,” said Chris Peterson, campaign manager for Rep. Smith.
Peterson said Smith worked with the debate hosts on scheduling, but ultimately wasn't able to attend.
“Congress is in session this week. They are taking votes and so Adrian Smith is in Washington D.C. doing the people's business,” said Peterson.
“It was his decision not to be here tonight. I'm pretty confident if he'd had a fundraiser tonight he'd been here,” said Brewer.
Brewer and Smith debated just last week, but Brewer said he would have liked to face him on neutral ground. The recent debate was held in Scottsbluff, the area where Smith is from.
Sullivan said, though he doesn't have a primary opponent, he's been campaigning since last year.
Sullivan and Brewer agree that winning against the incumbent will be challenging.