GOP Rep. Don Bacon reelected in Nebraska’s 2nd District

November 4, 2020 GMT
Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Neb., left, joins Rep. Don Bacon, R-Neb., during a sign-waving event in Omaha, Neb., on Election Day, Tuesday, Nov. 3, 2020. Sen. Sasse is facing a challenge by Democrat Chris Janicek, while Bacon is in a competitive race with his challenger, Democrat Kara Eastman. (AP Photo/Nati Harnik)
Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Neb., left, joins Rep. Don Bacon, R-Neb., during a sign-waving event in Omaha, Neb., on Election Day, Tuesday, Nov. 3, 2020. Sen. Sasse is facing a challenge by Democrat Chris Janicek, while Bacon is in a competitive race with his challenger, Democrat Kara Eastman. (AP Photo/Nati Harnik)
Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Neb., left, joins Rep. Don Bacon, R-Neb., during a sign-waving event in Omaha, Neb., on Election Day, Tuesday, Nov. 3, 2020. Sen. Sasse is facing a challenge by Democrat Chris Janicek, while Bacon is in a competitive race with his challenger, Democrat Kara Eastman. (AP Photo/Nati Harnik)
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Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Neb., left, joins Rep. Don Bacon, R-Neb., during a sign-waving event in Omaha, Neb., on Election Day, Tuesday, Nov. 3, 2020. Sen. Sasse is facing a challenge by Democrat Chris Janicek, while Bacon is in a competitive race with his challenger, Democrat Kara Eastman. (AP Photo/Nati Harnik)
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Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Neb., left, joins Rep. Don Bacon, R-Neb., during a sign-waving event in Omaha, Neb., on Election Day, Tuesday, Nov. 3, 2020. Sen. Sasse is facing a challenge by Democrat Chris Janicek, while Bacon is in a competitive race with his challenger, Democrat Kara Eastman. (AP Photo/Nati Harnik)

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — Republican Rep. Don Bacon scored a third term in Congress on Tuesday despite a tough challenge from a progressive Democrat in Nebraska’s competitive 2nd Congressional District.

Bacon defeated social worker and nonprofit executive Kara Eastman in a rematch that echoed the 2016 race, which Eastman also narrowly lost.

Bacon, whose voting record mostly aligned with President Donald Trump, repeatedly pitched himself as bipartisan during the campaign. He also secured endorsements from several centrist Nebraska Democrats, including former Rep. Brad Ashford, who lost his seat to Bacon in 2016.

“Polling showed his endorsement and his voice moved the needle significantly,” Bacon said in a speech thanking his supporters.

Bacon acknowledged that he faced a tougher fight against Eastman this year than he did in 2018. The campaign turned ugly at times, with Eastman accusing Bacon of trying to take health care away from Nebraska residents. Bacon portrayed Eastman as far too liberal for the center-right district.

Meanwhile, Republican Rep. Jeff Fortenberry won a ninth term in Congress, overcoming a challenge from a Democratic state lawmaker from Lincoln.

Fortenberry defeated state Sen. Kate Bolz in the 1st Congressional District, which includes Lincoln and a large, conservative swath of eastern Nebraska. The race was especially competitive, and Fortenberry attacked Bolz in a series of television ads.

“It has been a tough one, but we also ran a good and spirited and strong campaign,” he said.

Bolz also raised enough money to run television ads throughout the district, pointing to her upbringing on a family farm and her work in the Legislature. Her legislative district has traditionally been represented by Republicans.

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“We defied odds. We persevered through a pandemic, and we won victories of votes, endorsements and hearts and minds,” she said after conceding the race.

Statewide, Republican Sen. Ben Sasse easily defeated two Democratic challengers in the GOP-dominated state.

Sasse beat scandal-plagued Democratic nominee Chris Janicek, who refused to leave the race even after his party disavowed him for sending sexually explicit texts about a campaign staffer.

Nebraska Democratic Party officials spent months trying to force Janicek out of the race, but state law does not allow them to remove his name from the ballot without his permission.

Sasse also bested the Nebraska Democratic Party’s preferred candidate, Preston Love Jr., who ran as a write-in candidate.

Love acknowledged in September that he was a long-shot candidate, but added: “I am going to run as if I had all the money that I need and all the love that I need and that we give people an alternative.”

Sasse has campaigned as a reliable, traditional conservative, but he has also clashed publicly with President Donald Trump, drawing criticism from some party activists at home. He warded off a primary challenge from a pro-Trump GOP activist, however, and was expected to win even before the Janicek scandal.

In Nebraska’s rural, deeply Republican 3rd Congressional District, Rep. Adrian Smith cruised to an easy victory. His Democratic challenger, Mark Elworth Jr., doesn’t live in the district and has focused his campaign on legalizing marijuana.

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Follow Grant Schulte on Twitter: https://twitter.com/GrantSchulte.

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