Fall lineups include Vargas-Bacon in 2nd District; Flood-Pansing Brooks in 1st District

By: - May 10, 2022 9:21 pm

The U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. (Stefan Zaklin/Getty Images)

State Sen. Tony Vargas (Courtesy of the Unicameral Information Office)

OMAHA — Tony Vargas benefited from higher name ID from as a state senator and former Omaha school board member in his win Tuesday for the Democratic nomination in the 2nd Congressional District.

Vargas defeated Alisha Shelton, an Omaha mental health practitioner and former U.S. Senate candidate, whom Vargas outraised and outspent. Vargas was ahead 69% to Shelton’s 31% early Wednesday.

Vargas will face three-term incumbent Rep. Don Bacon, R-Neb., this fall. Bacon was attacked by former President Donald Trump but had only a little-known opponent in Tuesday’s primary. 

“I am thrilled to receive such widespread support from voters across the district. And I’m ready to get to work and win this seat for Nebraska’s working families,” Vargas said Tuesday night. “I am the son of immigrants who came here with nothing and sacrificed so much for our family. I know the challenges facing Nebraskans right now because I’ve lived them — the difficulty to find affordable housing, to pay for groceries, gas, childcare, and medical bills.”

Vargas has said he wants to work toward solutions in Congress by using the more collegial approach of the officially nonpartisan Nebraska Legislature.

He said he wants to find common ground and work on areas of agreement. Bacon has said the 2nd District already has a representative who governs in a bipartisan fashion. 

U.S. Rep. Don Bacon of Nebraska
Rep. Don Bacon, R-Neb., outside the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Vargas said he wants to help the Omaha area think about what it is already good at, what it could be good at soon and what investments the region needs to get there.

He stressed his legislative record, which includes helping State Sens. Justin Wayne and Terrell McKinney allocate federal recovery funds for programs in North and South Omaha. 

Shelton focused her campaign on fighting inflation and easing people’s financial pain. She emphasized education and training for better jobs and raising the federal minimum wage.

Bacon, a retired Air Force brigadier general, bested his primary opponent, Steve Kuehl, a roofing company salesman. Bacon raised more than $2.3 million, compared with Kuehl’s $5,141.

Bacon was leading Kuehl 77% to 23% earlyWednesday.

“I’m ecstatic with the results,” Bacon said Tuesday night. “First of all I want to say thank you to the district. To have the faith and support. I hope that people see that I work hard. I try to represent the diverse people in our district. I see our district as a center-right district that wants people to reach across the aisle. I’m a conservative who knows we have to work together for the future of our country. After this week, I wasn’t sure how it was going to turn out. I’m grateful.”

1st District

Republican State Sen. Mike Flood claims victory Tuesday in the GOP primary race to represent Nebraska’s 1st Congressional District.  (Aaron Sanderford/Nebraska Examiner)

In Eastern Nebraska’s 1st Congressional District, the only drama on the Republican side was how much of the vote former Rep. Jeff Fortenberry would receive.

State Sen. Mike Flood won the Republican nomination Tuesday, earning about 73% of the votes. He will also be the Republican candidate in a June 28 special election to fill out the remainder of Fortenberry’s current term, which ends in January.

Fortenberry resigned in March after being convicted of three felonies. But he still earned about 12% of the vote Tuesday — his resignation came too late to take his name off the ballot. His support was higher than any of the three other candidates who challenged Flood for the nomination.

“This thing, start to finish, no one could have ever imagined the circumstances that we’re in,” Flood told the Examiner on Tuesday night. “But at the end of the day, being here with all these friends and family and people from across the first congressional district, really reinforces the reason I put in. I want to be a representative of this district. I want to be about urban and rural, and I want to be successful Washington.”

Patty Pansing Brooks
State Sen. Patty Pansing Brooks of Lincoln is running for Congress in the 1st District (Aaron Sanderford/Nebraska Examiner)

State Sen. Patty Pansing Brooks won the Democratic primary soundly, as well, defeating University of Nebraska-Lincoln student Jazari Kual. Pansing Brooks, with about 87% of the votes, will compete with Flood in the special election and in November’s general election.

“I am honored to earn the faith of Democratic primary voters,” Pansing Brooks said. ”The people of CD1 are responding to my campaign to lower the cost of living, reduce prescription drug prices, lower premiums under the Affordable Care Act and create a rural and urban renaissance that serves all the people of CD1. Our path to victory now runs through the special election next month and on to November.”

3rd District

U.S. Rep. Adrian Smith
U.S. Rep. Adrian Smith. (Courtesy of U.S. Congress)

Incumbent Rep. Adrian Smith drew about 76% of the GOP votes Tuesday in the 3rd Congressional District, handily winning over challenger Mike Calhoun.

On the Democratic ticket in the 3rd District, David Else was the winner over Daniel Wik.

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Aaron Sanderford
Aaron Sanderford

Political reporter Aaron Sanderford has tackled various news roles in his 20-plus year career. He has reported on politics, crime, courts, government and business for the Omaha World-Herald and Lincoln Journal-Star. He also worked as an assignment editor and editorial writer. He was an investigative reporter at KMTV.