Progressives celebrated after Kara Eastman on Tuesday won a Democratic primary contest for the U.S. House seat representing Nebraska's 2nd Congressional District, which is currently held by the two-term Republican Rep. Don Bacon.
"This is a major victory for the progressive movement," Alexandra Rojas, executive director of Justice Democrats, said in statement Tuesday night.
Friends, we did it. We WON!!!
This election is a REFERENDUM on the last four years. This election is about STANDING UP for what we believe in TOGETHER. We are PROUD to stand with all of you to reclaim who we are as Nebraskans.
Who’s coming with us!? https://t.co/ZYuYrWLAWg
— Kara Eastman (@karaforcongress) May 13, 2020
Rojas, whose grassroots group endorsed Eastman, also called out the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC), which works to elect Democrats to the House and reportedly recruited one of her primary opponents, Gladys Harrison.
"After the DCCC tried to recruit a candidate against her, Eastman won over the voters in her district anyway," Rojas said. "We're proud to fight alongside Kara Eastman to defeat Don Bacon's agenda of division and greed."
Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), who also endorsed Eastman, congratulated the candidate for her primary win in a Tuesday night tweet:
We need people like @KaraforCongress in Congress to join the fights on health care, tackling student debt, and taking on corporate power. I’m in this fight with her now through November—let’s do this. https://t.co/LzFMMkQagG
— Elizabeth Warren (@ewarren) May 13, 2020
Other groups and individuals who endorsed Eastman include Democracy for America, Food and Water Action, Peace Action, Sierra Club, and various elected officials including the Congressional Progressive Caucus co-chairs, Reps. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) and Mark Pocan (D-Wis.).
Eastman, a Omaha resident who owns a small business that provides consulting services in the nonprofit sector, came within 1.9% of unseating Bacon in 2018 despite the DCCC endorsing her then-primary opponent, former Rep. Brad Ashford.
Dem groups poured millions of dollars into swing House seats in 2018 except for #NE02 which many believe they refused to support b/c Kara Eastman backs Medicare for All & defeated the favored rightwing Dem the establishment wanted for that district.
— Lee Fang (@lhfang) May 13, 2020
Ann Ashford—the former congressman's wife—and Harrison were Eastman's primary opponents this time around. With 93% reporting Wednesday morning, Eastman secured 61.8% of the vote compared with Ashford's 31.6% and Harrison's 6.6%.
In November, Eastman will again face off against Don Bacon, who easily won the Republican primary race Tuesday, securing over 90% of the vote.
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— Brand New Congress (@BrandNew535) May 13, 2020
Eastman swiftly took aim at Bacon after the race was called. She told the Omaha World-Herald that "people are looking for leadership and for representation that actually represents the district, and not just somebody who's going to align himself with his party."
Bacon will "say that I'm too extreme when he has voted 95% of the time with Donald Trump, and even signed a pledge to not disagree with the president, which is crazy," Eastman added. "He is the definition of extreme."
The congressional hopeful echoed that message in a series of tweets, responding to Bacon attacking her "extremist agenda" and calling her a "radical socialist" by denouncing both his tactics and his political record, particularly on healthcare.
Eastman supports Medicare for All and a host of other progressive positions on taxation, economic issues, immigration, gun control, and combating the climate crisis. She tweeted Tuesday that progressive ideas aren't "radical," but reasonable and popular:
If there's a lesson we can take from tonight, it might be this....
These ideas aren't radical. These ideas aren't unreasonable. They are pragmatic and measured!
We just need to have the COURAGE to do the right things.
And we will. :)
I hope you'll join us.
— Kara Eastman (@karaforcongress) May 13, 2020
Now the party's official nominee for the district, Eastman is also popular, according to recent DCCC polling. Roll Call reported that "a Tuesday night memo from the DCCC noted that an internal poll conducted by the committee found Eastman leading Bacon 48% to 47% in their anticipated fall matchup."
The Intercept's Ryan Grim also tweeted about the DCCC polling late Tuesday:
NEW: DCCC recently finished polling in NE02 and they have Eastman, who just won her primary, up 48-47 over incumbent Don Bacon, source tells me. https://t.co/yhpVIWHO4G
— Ryan Grim (@ryangrim) May 13, 2020
In spite of the history between Eastman and the DCCC, the group's chair Rep. Cheri Bustos (D-Ill.) released a statement in response to the race results that seemed to indicate support for the House candidate.
"In 2018, Kara Eastman came within inches of unseating Congressman Don Bacon, and this time around she's ready to finish the job," Bustos said. "While Kara has been an independent voice working to serve her community in Omaha for nearly two decades, Congressman Don Bacon has focused only on doing whatever Donald Trump asks, relentlessly pursuing Republicans' out-of-touch agenda of dismantling our current healthcare system, undermining protections for pre-existing conditions, and raising taxes on middle class homeowners."
"On issue after issue Bacon has placed Nebraskans last," Bustos added, "which is exactly why they'll elect Kara to office come November."