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‘Honest’ Congressional Candidate Plants Questions At High School

October 1, 1994

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) _ Congressional candidate Jon Christensen has sworn by his honesty. He even took a lie-detector test once to prove it.

So when he campaigned at a high school, students naturally assumed they could ask the Republican whatever they wanted and would get straight answers. They were wrong.

Christensen’s campaign organizers gave some students prepared questions to ask and told them to hold pens when they raised their hands so Christensen would know who to call on. The students chosen worked for his campaign, the Omaha World Herald reported on Friday.

The plan backfired when teacher Joe Higgins and some other students found out. Those students also clutched pens when they raised their hands to confuse Christensen.

Of 10 students called upon, seven held pens but only two had questions prepared by the campaign, Higgins said. The two prepared questions were on Haiti and why some congressmen have been indicted.

″If he can’t stand up to a roomful of 17-year-olds, how is he going to stand up to the U.S. Congress?″ asked Joey Hornstein, a senior in the government class at Westside High School.

Christensen campaign officials said they planted the questions to prepare Christensen for his first debate against incumbent Rep. Peter Hoagland.

″It was an opportunity to test our candidate a little bit in a pressure situation,″ said Steve Thomlison, Christensen campaign manager.

Christensen’s Sept. 23 question-and-answer session at the school was followed two days later by the debate, in which Christensen appeared nervous and gave answers that sounded rehearsed.

Hoagland, a Democrat seeking a fourth term representing the 2nd District in the Omaha area, and Christensen have been in a tight race, polls show.

Earlier this month Christensen took a lie-detector test to prove he never said Omaha schools teach immoral values, as Hoagland had accused him. He passed.

″I am the only person in America running for Congress who is a certified honest individual,″ Christensen said after the test.

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