Don Bacon addresses supporters from a podium that reads
Rep. Don Bacon addresses his supporters at his election watch party, after he gained a majority lead in the 2nd Congressional District election. (Dillon Galloway/Nebraska News Service Photo)

Nebraska Rep. Don Bacon is looking forward to a fourth term in Congress, looking to fulfill campaign promises and legislate in a way that builds trust and consensus.

Bacon, a Republican, will win re-election to Nebraska’s 2nd Congressional District over Democratic challenger State Sen. Tony Vargas of Omaha on Tuesday, Nov. 8. Bacon is leading Vargas 52% to 48%, though the election results will not be certified until Dec. 5 when the Board of State Canvassers meets. 

Still, Bacon is already looking ahead to another two years in the U.S. House of Representatives. 

Top priorities

Bacon, a Republican, told the Nebraska News Service the morning after the election that one of his priorities includes finishing construction at Offutt Air Force Base, which he said could be a lasting legacy for him when completed. Funding would come from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law that Bacon and only a handful of Republicans supported.

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Rep. Don Bacon addresses his supporters at his election watch party after he gained a majority lead in the 2nd Congressional District election. (Dillon Galloway/Nebraska News Service Photo)

Bacon is also looking to continue serving on the House Armed Services Committee and its Military Personnel subcommittee.

Some service members rely on food stamps, and Bacon said he would work to support enlisted people, so they don’t need the service.

As a two-time foster parent, Bacon also wants to improve the lives of children in foster care.

More broadly, Bacon wants to also stop what he calls “out-of-control” spending and force President Joe Biden to deal with the border with Mexico and energy concerns.

Nebraska political landscape

University of Nebraska Regent Jim Pillen, a Republican, is projected to succeed Gov. Pete Ricketts, who was prevented from seeking a third term due to term limits.

Bacon said Pillen is a good person with character, who will keep the interests of Nebraskans at heart.

“I’m excited for him. He is genuinely a kind, warm-hearted person, at least that’s what my experience is with him,” Bacon said.

Current election results, with some ballots still to be counted, show Republicans picking up at least one seat in the Nebraska Legislature, though Bacon said he fought for three. This could allow Republicans to pass more controversial legislation that could allow Nebraskans to carry concealed weapons without a permit or restrict access to abortions.

Republicans’ performance

Bacon said issues this year aligned with Republicans, though he wished Republicans would have done better nationally. Control of Congress in the House and Senate — and by what margins — is still to be decided.

Biden has trended low in approval ratings, yet Republicans still struggled to overtake Democrats nationwide. Bacon said Republicans need to look at and understand the disparity.

“I think people want commonsense, conservative people that know how to make deals,” Bacon said. “People don’t want just fire-breathing, burn-the-house-down mindset that some people bring when they’re campaigning. They want conservatism, but they want decency.”

Polling showed Bacon and Vargas close, though Bacon said he expected to win by similar margins, about 4-5%.

“I was hoping that there would have been a tailwind, but actually, we had a headwind in some ways,” Bacon said.

Bacon said he’s excited for Zach Nunn of Iowa, a veteran who is projected to defeat Rep. Cindy Axne, the only Democrat in Iowa’s four-member House delegation.

But other Republicans nationwide and locally didn’t win, and Bacon said he’s been checking in with them, including some who were with him on election night.

“I looked across the room, and I saw somebody crying, and your heart breaks,” Bacon said. “You put everything into these races, and unfortunately, only one person wins. People invest three or four months every day of campaigning, and it’s hard when you don’t come out on top.”

Sasse vacancy

Later on Wednesday, Nov. 9, the Florida Board of Governors confirmed U.S. Sen. Ben Sasse, a Republican, as the next president of the University of Florida.

Sasse’s appointment is effective Feb. 6 for a five-year contract. Sasse said he would finish out the year and resign in the first week of January.

Bacon pointed to Nebraska’s second U.S. senator, Deb Fischer, as someone whose work he admires.

He said people have asked him about the seat, too, but with his district split so closely, he doesn’t think people would want a special election.

No one has expressed interest in the Senate seat to Bacon personally, he said, but he’ll support Pillen’s appointment.

“It’s not a total blank check, but I believe he’ll pick a person that’s of high caliber,” Bacon said.

Abortion, bipartisanship

The Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade this summer, which provided constitutional protections for abortion, sent shockwaves in many campaigns nationwide.

​​“I think we could have turned this issue in our favor, but we tried to run from it. We shouldn’t have,” Bacon said, adding he was clear with his stance up front and through the campaign.

Bacon said voters he talked to, Republican or Democrat, are more supportive of allowing abortion at 12-15 weeks of gestation. Bacon supports exceptions if the life of the mother is at risk.

The congressman also touted his record of working across the aisle. Bacon said legislators must campaign with their heart and what they believe in but legislate to build consensus.

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Rep. Don Bacon addresses his supporters at his election watch party, after he gained a majority lead in the 2nd Congressional District election. (Dillon Galloway/Nebraska News Service Photo)

“I think we should advertise what we believe in at 100%, but where we find 50% agreement that we can pass, we take it,” Bacon said.

Americans want the country to work and are tired of dysfunction, Bacon said. The congressman said Republicans need to work more across the aisle and stop the yelling and screaming.

This doesn’t mean people need to compromise their values, but they need to find areas to work together.

“That’s what Americans want to hear,” Bacon said. “I don’t think they heard enough of that during the campaign.”