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Bacon wins nomination without Nebraska state party backing

Moderate Republican faces a competitive race in November

Rep. Don Bacon, R-Neb., leaves a meeting of the House Republican Conference in the Capitol on May 7.
Rep. Don Bacon, R-Neb., leaves a meeting of the House Republican Conference in the Capitol on May 7. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

In a race that could determine control of the House next year, Republican Rep. Don Bacon will face a rematch with Democrat Tony Vargas after Bacon dispatched with GOP challenger Dan Frei in Tuesday’s primary.

Bacon had 70 percent of the vote at 9:23 p.m. Eastern time, when The Associated Press called the race. The race pitted the four-term incumbent who belongs to the GOP’s moderate wing against Frei, a favorite of grassroots activists who received the endorsement of the Nebraska Republican Party.

Outside groups have also spent big on Bacon’s behalf. He received a $673,000 boost from the Big Red Leadership PAC, which despite its name is a super PAC funded primarily by Sen. Pete Ricketts, the state’s former governor who was appointed by his successor to an open seat last year. 

The Congressional Leadership Fund, a group aligned with House GOP leadership, has spent $75,000 in support of Bacon and $10,000 opposing Vargas. Those numbers are likely to grow before the November election.

Vargas, a state lawmaker and former public school teacher who had $1.6 million in his campaign account on April 24, did not face a Democratic primary opponent.

Ricketts was also on Tuesday’s ballot. He beat two opponents for the nomination to serve the remainder of former Sen. Ben Sasse’s term, which runs through January 2027. Democrat Preston Love was unopposed in the primary.

The state’s senior senator, Republican Deb Fischer, also prevailed in her primary, and no Democrat ran for the nomination to challenge her. Fischer will, however, face independent candidate Dan Osborn, a union activist, in November.

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