Video by Miriam Kluck
Incumbent GOP Representative Don Bacon and Democratic Candidate Kara Eastman discuss what they are fighting for in the 2020 election. Topics include COVID-19, health care, and police brutality.
Bacon and Eastman battle for the 50/50 district
By Jennifer Yuma
With Nov. 3 around the corner, the pressure is on for voters to choose who they want to represent them.
Nebraska also has important local elections underway. In Nebraska’s 2nd congressional district, voters will cast ballots for president and their district representative. The two contenders for the role are incumbent GOP Rep. Don Bacon, and Democrat Kara Eastman.
COVID-19 has put healthcare at the forefront of issues on the ballot.
When it comes to health insurance, Bacon opposes Medicare For All and said he wants people to have a lot of options.
“Single-payer healthcare, also known as Medicare for All, would be a disaster for our country,” Bacon posted on his official Facebook page, May 19.
Eastman supports Medicare For All and said there should be a stronger plan outside of a person’s employer.
“Medicare for All is the most pragmatic and practical solution to this problem,” Eastman tweeted April 10.
Due to COVID-19, many employees have lost the healthcare that their employers provided.
“Coupling employment with healthcare can be pretty precarious, especially given the numbers of people who have lost their jobs and therefore lost their healthcare recently,” Eastman said.
“The plan that I like actually saves the Federal government $2 trillion over the next decade,”
Bacon supports the “Lower Costs, More Cures Act”
“I support HR19, which gets generic drugs on the market faster,” Bacon said. “It will lower costs, prevent pharmaceutical companies from buying out their competition in a certain drug, and it also caps expenses for those on Medicare.”
Eastman said she wants to change the law to allow the Federal government to negotiate prices.
Read Eastman’s proposed healthcare plan.
Since the killing of George Floyd in May, police reform and systemic racism have been a concern among voters.
Both Bacon and Eastman have both publicly opposed defunding the police department.
“I want to put more money towards de-escalation training,” Bacon said. “There needs to be body cameras for everyone, and there needs to be more money toward mental healthcare as well.”
Eastman said she also plans on reforming the police department with mental health awareness, while touting her experience teaming up with the Omaha Police Department.
“By working with social reform and mental health reform, we saw that we reduced crime by about 90% with wrap-around services,” Eastman said.
Bacon is in favor of putting officers on a registry if they have violated a law.
“I believe you have to maintain qualified immunity,” Bacon said. “If you follow the law and follow the procedures of the police department, you can’t be sued, and if you violate the law and the procedures, you can be sued.”
Both candidates said the United States needs to address systemic racism.
“I understand [systemic racism] as a historical, continued inequality that we have, and we have that,” Bacon said. “It’s clear.”
Eastman mirrored that sentiment.
“We have to acknowledge that there is systemic racism in this country,” Eastman said. “We need evidence-based solutions.”
When asked how he plans to address systemic racism, Bacon said he expanded affordable housing, supported opportunity zones in Omaha for disadvantaged neighborhoods and supported loans for minority business owners.
“I’ve supported prison reform and juvenile justice reforms,” Bacon said.
Eastman said she has community leaders on her side.
“I’ve been endorsed by over 50 Black leaders in Omaha who have helped me create a racial justice plan,” Eastman said.
The two candidates are at odds on the issue of Trump’s handling of COVID-19.
“I think the president did well,” Bacon said. “When you look backwards, there are things that we could have done better.”
Eastman said the Trump administration failed to protect Americans.
“We were on the right path for a while,” Eastman said. “This is failed leadership at the highest level in this country.”
Eastman has also been critical of Bacon for downplaying the importance of wearing masks.
“We know it’s not the end all be all,” Eastman said, “but we know that it works in preventing transmissions of the virus.”
Bacon said his administration will continue to help people recover during the pandemic.
“I have passed four supplemental bills to help COVID,” Bacon said.
Eastman said she will put “universal testing, contract tracing, and mask mandates” in place if elected.
When it comes to the intersection of COVID-19 and health care, Eastman said Bacon will not protect those with pre-existing conditions.
“COVID will be a pre existing condition,” Eastman said. “Their premiums will go up, or they will have no coverage at all.”
Bacon said Nebraska is almost back to where it’s at.
“Our deaths are on the low end of what the CDC said was going to happen,” he said. “They estimated to up to 1.7 million.”
Tori Osborne, a senior at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, has been open about her support of Rep. Don Bacon. Referencing his military service, she said Bacon has the national security’s best interest at heart.
“He has also stood up for the police while still supporting future police reform at the federal level,” Osborne, 21, said.
Osborne said there are some policies of Eastman’s that she agrees with.
“I agree on her emphasis for family leave and sick paid days,” Osborne said. “However I do not agree with her Pro-Choice stance.”
Ethan Tylski, a junior from Omaha studying at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, said Eastman is for the people.
“Eastman isn’t perfect, but she will put Omaha in a more responsible and progressive direction,” Tyslski, 21, said.
According to Tylski, Bacon is not representative of all Nebraskans.
“He’s towing the party line,” Tylski said. “He enables Trump, which I think is the biggest disservice he does for Omaha.”
Osborne and Tylski both stressed the importance of involvement in local politics.
“In a lot of ways local politics affects a lot more than we think,” Tylski said. “Local politics can apply pressure to national politics, set a lot of the policies that affect our cities, and local politicians can talk to their constituents.”
Osborne said local politicians pay more attention to their constituents.
“You get to understand your politics on a more personal level,” Osborne said. “Those serving in local politics truly take more of what their constituents care about to mind.”
Tylski said young people need to get more involved in politics if they want to see change in the future.
“All these issues affect our lives,” Tylski said. “In 40 years, the politicians we have now are going to be formative for the experience we have for the country in the future.”
Election day for the general election is on Nov. 3, at your assigned polling place.
Political scientists say Bacon, Eastman race a toss-up
By John Grinvalds
The race for Nebraska’s 2nd congressional district promises to come down to the wire.
Kara Eastman, from Omaha, came within two points of unseating Omaha resident and incumbent Rep. Don Bacon in 2018, and as polling indicates, this year’s race might prove even closer.
This kind of neck and neck contest is fairly abnormal across congressional races, according to University of Nebraska Omaha political science associate dean and professor Randall Adkins.
“Of the 435 congressional districts, about 400 of them will see the incumbent win very safely. That’s because the districts have been drawn in such a way that there’s a very strong majority party,” Adkins said. “The other districts are called marginal districts, which are won by 5% of the vote or less. NE-2 is one of those marginal districts.”
Adkins said NE-2 became a marginal district over the past decade for many reasons, including demographic change and shifting political attitudes in suburban populations.
UNO political science department chair Jody Neathery-Castro said suburban areas may prove important for the outcome of the national and district-level elections this year.
“Suburban voters are really on that swing,” Neathery-Castro said. “There are a lot of suburban areas in play this election.”
But long-term demographic trends aren’t the only thing shaping the outcome of NE-2’s race, Neathery-Castro said.
“These are not normal times,” she said. “There’s this triple threat of COVID-19, healthcare and the economy.”
Neathery-Castro said these factors compound on top of each other. The U.S. response to COVID-19 caused millions to lose their jobs and employment health-insurance, which caused many Americans to feel pinched, if not crushed.
“People are feeling economic insecurity even if they aren’t personally experiencing an economic downturn,” she said.
Voters are facing down a pandemic not seen at this scale since 1919. Nebraska’s cases surged in the past couple of weeks and show no signs of stopping.
“COVID-19 looms large,” Neathery-Castro said. “This election is a referendum on the administration’s handling of the pandemic.”
Neathery-Castro said Eastman and the Democratic Party made those compounding crises the core of their messaging, and healthcare has become a key issue on the ballot.
Eastman said she originally ran for Congress because of sky-rocketing medical and pharmaceutical costs, and has criticized Bacon for his position on healthcare. Bacon worked to overturn the Affordable Care Act, which provides health coverage to 22 million people, and replace it with the American Health Care Act. The ACA, as it soon goes before the now strongly conservative Supreme Court, may face the chopping block.
NE-2’s neck and neck has led to an uptick in funding from out-of-state, partisan organizations.
“When you see the rush to inject money, it’s a good sign that the race is close and that it’s important to the national parties,” Neathery-Castro said.
To Adkins, the national funding obscures what’s at stake for Nebraskans in the election.
“I don’t really like the influence of outside spending on this race,” Adkins said. “It takes away from what we care about in Nebraska.”
Both Adkins and Neathery-Castro predict a high turn out, despite COVID-19, and voters have already cast more than half of 2016’s total votes.
“I think we’re going to set records for voting this year,” Neathery-Castro said. “Many people see this as one of the most important elections in their lifetime.”
Even with the advantages Adkins said Democrats tend to have in high-turnout elections, he said the contest between Bacon and Eastman is a toss-up.
“If I were going to Las Vegas to bet on this, I wouldn’t actually take the bet,” Adkins said. “It’s too close to call.”