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Kara Eastman gets rematch with Rep. Don Bacon in Nebraska

Liberal Democrat came within 2 points of ousting GOP congressman in 2018

Kara Eastman faces a rematch against Republican Rep. Don Bacon in Nebraska’s 2nd District after she won Tuesday’s Democratic primary.
Kara Eastman faces a rematch against Republican Rep. Don Bacon in Nebraska’s 2nd District after she won Tuesday’s Democratic primary. (Courtesy Kara Eastman for Congress 2018)

Corrected, 10:59 p.m. | Nonprofit business consultant Kara Eastman won the Democratic primary in Nebraska’s 2nd District on Tuesday, setting up a rematch against Republican incumbent Don Bacon in a seat Democrats are targeting in November.

With 68 percent of precincts reporting, Eastman was leading with 61 percent of the vote when The Associated Press called the race. In second place was lawyer Ann Ashford who had 33 percent, followed by restaurateur Gladys Harrison with 6 percent.

Bacon had no trouble winning the GOP primary. He led perennial candidate Paul Anderson, 91 percent to 9 percent, when the AP called the race.

Two years ago, Eastman came within 2 points of unseating Bacon, a retired Air Force brigadier general, in the swing Omaha-area district. Inside Elections with Nathan L. Gonzales rates the November race Lean Republican.

Since then, Eastman, a progressive, has worked to appeal more to independent voters, largely ignoring her primary opponents and focusing instead on tying Bacon to President Donald Trump, who carried the district by just 2 points in 2016.

Eastman’s supporters say she is better positioned this time to defeat Bacon because she will have more support from and coordination with the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. In 2018, the DCCC endorsed Eastman’s primary opponent, former Rep. Brad Ashford, who is Ann Ashford’s husband and who represented the district for a single term before losing to Bacon in 2016.

A Tuesday night memo from the DCCC noted that an internal poll conducted by the committee found Eastman leading Bacon 48 percent to 47 percent in their anticipated fall matchup.

Eastman also has a better funded and more coordinated campaign this cycle. She was the top fundraiser in the primary, pulling in $848,000 as of April 22 compared to Ashford’s $412,000, which included $200,000 she self-funded. Harrison, the owner of Big Mama’s Kitchen in North Omaha, was reportedly recruited by the DCCC, but she raised just $32,000.

Eastman was the first to go on air with an 30-second cable TV ad debuting April 1 that tied Bacon to Trump’s “tax cuts for billionaires” and “extreme” plans to cut health care and social security.

Ashford soon followed with ads touting her health care experience — she was a board member for Planned Parenthood and the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, among other positions. She also aired ads attacking Eastman.

Eastman supports “Medicare for All.” Both Ashford and Harrison called for building on the 2010 health care law to add a publicly funded plan that could compete with private insurance — the so-called public option.

Correction: Due to an editing error, an earlier version of this report misstated the self-funder in the Democratic primary in Nebraska’s 2nd District.

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