Former Dem rep's comeback bid foiled by Neb. primary loss

Former Dem rep's comeback bid foiled by Neb. primary loss
© Greg Nash

Nonprofit executive Kara Eastman is the projected winner of Nebraska’s 2nd Congressional District Democratic primary, staving off a comeback bid by former Democratic Rep. Brad AshfordJohn (Brad) Bradley AshfordPelosi sees defections from an unusual quarter — the left Ex-Dem lawmaker: Russians hacked my email in 2016 In 2018 midterms, Democrats must stop sidelining abortion MORE.

Eastman toppled Ashford by a razor-thin margin. The race went on, too close to call, well into Wednesday morning as more votes rolled in. But when the dust settled, Eastman expanded her lead to a margin of 51.4 percent to 48.6 percent, enough to avoid an automatic recount.

“I am probably very visibly humbled and honored to accept the Democratic nomination,” she said in the early hours of Wednesday morning as the result became clear, according to the Omaha World-Herald.

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Eastman ran as the progressive alternative to Ashford, seizing on the enthusiasm within the party stoked by opposition to President TrumpDonald John TrumpArizona GOP Senate candidate defends bus tour with far-right activist Alyssa Milano protests Kavanaugh in 'Handmaid's Tale' costume Bomb in deadly Yemen school bus attack was manufactured by US firm: report MORE and arguing that a true progressive candidate from outside politics can help carry the party’s flag forward.

Eastman argued for progressive policies like “Medicare for all,” called for the repeal of the recent GOP tax-cut bill and has a stance on abortion that’s to the left of Ashford’s.

Eastman's supporters framed her victory as proof of the argument that Democratic primary voters want a candidate that adheres to their values over one that may compromise for electability.

"Kara Eastman taught the Democratic establishment a lesson: The way to inspire voters in 2018 is to campaign on a bold progressive agenda of Medicare for All, higher wages for workers, and other economic populist ideas that help working families and challenge corporate power," Progressive Change Campaign Committee co-founder Stephanie Taylor said in a statement.

"This is how Democrats can win in red, purple, and blue districts and maximize a wave in 2018."

By contrast, Ashford’s supporters had sought to frame him as a consensus-builder with the experience needed to get things done in Washington for his home district. While he served just one term in Congress, he has a long career in the state legislature, serving as an independent, a Republican and a Democrat.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee had added Ashford to its "Red to Blue" list, which highlights promising candidates and gives them access to key financial and organizational support.

The victory is another success for progressives in the ongoing internal debate over the party's direction.

But the race will be a true test of the progressive hypothesis, as many moderate Democrats and Republicans believe Eastman is too far to the left to win in a district that just voted Ashford out two years ago.

Eastman will face off against Rep. Don Bacon, the Republican who unseated Ashford in 2016. Bacon, a military veteran, drove up his margins in the conservative Sarpy County while tying the moderate Ashford to the Democratic Party at large.

--Updated at 6:24 a.m.