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Last year’s cash hauls for Ashford, Eastman could mean a competitive primary

February 2, 2018

The two Democrats in the primary for Nebraska’s 2nd District congressional seat say voters should get ready to see their faces much more during the new year.

Federal candidates filed year-end financial disclosure reports Wednesday.

Former Rep. Brad Ashford started the new year with more than $200,000 in the bank, having raised about $320,000 during this election cycle.

Nonprofit executive Kara Eastman had $72,000 in the bank, and she raised about $200,000 during the same time period.

The two are vying for the Democratic nomination to run against Rep. Don Bacon, a Republican, in what is expected to be one of the most closely contested House races in the country.

Bacon, who has been fundraising for longer during this election cycle, has raised $1.1 million and he reported more than $600,000 in the bank.

“I’m grateful to have so many people believe in my message and principles,” Bacon said in a press release.

On the Democratic side, Ashford is seen as the front-runner because he successfully won the same Douglas and western Sarpy County district in 2014, though he lost his seat to Bacon in 2016.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has already thrown its support behind Ashford, putting his name on its “red-to-blue” list.

But Eastman’s haul in 2017 means that it’ll likely be a competitive primary, said Kevin Smith, the chairman of the political science department at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

“You have to give Ashford the edge,” Smith said. “But the fact that he’s got a challenger that’s raised (nearly) a quarter of a million dollars already and we’re still months out from a primary election, it’s not a coronation.”

And Smith said that although both Democrats have trailed Bacon in fundraising, outside spending could make up the difference in the general election.

“It’s a long way between here and November,” Smith said. “But right now the winds seem to be favoring Democrats, certainly going into House races.”

Eastman’s campaign said she can win over 2nd District voters without the national party support.

“She connects with people in a way that’s really valuable,” said campaign spokeswoman Heather Aliano. “She cares about individual voters and that’s why they’re excited about her. She’s taking the time to get to know them at their doors.”

Ashford’s campaign strategist, Ian Russell, said the candidate will be telling voters that he can help resolve the “drama” in Washington, D.C.

“Congressman Ashford’s momentum continues to grow,” Russell said. “He’s demonstrating that he is ready to get back to work in Congress to hold (President) Donald Trump accountable and reach across the aisle on bipartisan solutions to help Nebraska families.”

Bacon’s campaign said Wednesday that he will bring a high energy work ethic to the campaign.

The primary election is May 15 and the general is Nov. 6.

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