Eastman wins Democratic primary for Nebraska’s 2nd District

May 16, 2018
FILE- In this April 5, 2018, file photo, Brad Ashford, one of two Democrats vying to challenge 2nd District House incumbent Don Bacon, R-Neb., campaigns in Omaha, Neb. The Omaha-based 2nd Congressional District has changed party hands twice in the past two elections, and Democrats Brad Ashford and Kara Eastman are optimistic they can defeat first-term U.S. Rep. Don Bacon. Democratic and independent voters will pick Ashford or Eastman as the party's nominee in the primary election, Tuesday, May 15, 2018. (AP Photo/Nati Harnik, File)

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — Omaha nonprofit director Kara Eastman scored a narrow victory Wednesday morning in the Democratic primary race for Nebraska’s competitive 2nd Congressional District, defeating former Rep. Brad Ashford.

Eastman will face first-term Republican Rep. Don Bacon, who ran unopposed in his primary. Eastman pitched herself to voters as a progressive political newcomer, unlike Ashford, a proud moderate who promised to build relationships with Republicans if voters sent him back to Congress.

Bacon narrowly won the seat in 2016 from Ashford, a former state senator who served one term in Congress. The race was among the highest-profile contests in Nebraska’s primary election.

Other top races included crowded fields in both parties for governor and Senate nominations, and a two-person race for treasurer that likely will mean a general election victory for the winner.

Here’s a breakdown of the races.


The 2nd District was the only truly competitive congressional seat in deep-red Nebraska, and this year the race for the Democratic nomination featured two well-funded candidates.

Eastman, a social worker who runs the nonprofit Omaha Healthy Kids Alliance, cast herself as a progressive alternative to the centrist Ashford, who also has been registered as a Republican and independent. Eastman said she would bring a fresh perspective to the office and argued her views better reflect those of Omaha-area residents.

Ashford touted his experience in Congress as an asset for residents in the district, arguing he could help broker compromises in a gridlocked Washington.

The district encompasses Omaha and parts of the city’s suburbs.

In 2016, Bacon beat Ashford by less than 4,000 votes.


Lincoln City Councilwoman Jane Raybould won the Democratic primary to try and unseat Republican Sen. Deb Fischer, a tough prospect in overwhelmingly conservative Nebraska.

Raybould, who ran unsuccessfully for lieutenant governor in 2014, helps run a Nebraska grocery store chain founded by her late father. She was the best-financed Democrat in the race.

The other Democrats were Frank Svoboda, a retired farmer, attorney and judge from Lincoln; Larry Marvin, a retired real estate broker from Fremont; and Chris Janicek, of Omaha, who owns a specialty cake business.

Fischer easily defeated four GOP primary challengers and enjoys a substantial fundraising advantage and statewide name recognition. Her primary challengers were Jack Heidel, a retired math professor from Omaha; Dennis Frank Macek, a writer and retired air conditioning technician from Lincoln; Jeffrey Lynn Stein, a professional photographer from Omaha; and Lincoln businessman Todd Watson.

Libertarian Jim Schultz ran unopposed for his party’s nomination.


Republican Gov. Pete Ricketts handily won the party’s nomination to seek a second four-year term.

He now faces state Sen. Bob Krist of Omaha, a former Republican and independent who joined the Democratic Party in February. Krist has pitched himself as a less partisan alternative to Ricketts who would work more collaboratively with the Legislature.

Ricketts ran against Krystal Gabel of Omaha, a registered Republican who has volunteered to create the Legal Marijuana Now Party of Nebraska.

Democrats Vanessa Gayle Ward, an Omaha community activist, and University of Nebraska at Omaha instructor Tyler Davis were also seeking the nomination in their first bids for public office.


Jessica McClure, a former chemist with a law degree, defeated personal injury lawyer Dennis Crawford in the Democratic primary to run against Republican Rep. Jeff Fortenberry, who is seeking an eighth term in Congress.

Fortenberry was unopposed in Tuesday’s race.

McClure and Fortenberry both emphasized their support for universal health care in their platforms. They also have sharply criticized the Republican tax law approved last year.

In the sprawling 3rd Congressional District, incumbent Rep. Adrian Smith bested three GOP challengers. The candidates were Kirk Penner, an Aurora small business executive; Larry Lee Scott Bollinger, a property manager and author from Alliance; and Arron Kowalski, a Grand Island farmer.

Democrat Paul Theobald is unopposed for his party’s nomination but will be a giant underdog in the overwhelmingly Republican district.


Nebraska state Sen. John Murante won the Republican nomination for state treasurer and is all but certain to get the job in November.

Murante defeated Taylor Royal, a certified public accountant from Omaha. No Democrats have filed to run for the office.

Murante outraised Royal and won the endorsements of the state’s top political leaders, including Gov. Pete Ricketts, current State Treasurer Don Stenberg and former Gov. Kay Orr.

Royal, who ran unsuccessfully for Omaha mayor last year, pointed to his experience as a financial adviser and accountant as a plus for the job.


The primary could also give some shape to next year’s state Legislature in races with more than two candidates.

Legislative races are officially nonpartisan, but Tuesday’s election will eliminate some candidates and make way for the top two vote-getters in each district to face off in November.

Of the 24 districts that are up for election, 10 have more than three candidates vying for the seat. Two of those districts in rural Nebraska have six candidates each who are running.


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