Medicare-for-all progressive may just pull out a win in a key Nebraska House primary

A progressive candidate running on Medicare-for-all is on the verge of beating a former US congressman in the Democratic primary for a crucial 2018 House election in Nebraska, but the race is too close to call.

As of press time, Kara Eastman, president of a local nonprofit, holds a narrow lead over former Rep. Brad Ashford in the Democratic primary in Nebraska’s Second Congressional District. Ashford had been elected to the seat in 2014, though he lost it to Republican Rep. Don Bacon in 2016. He had received public support from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

Nebraska requires a recount if the margin of victory is narrower than 1 percent of the leading candidate’s vote total. Eastman has about 16,000 votes and leads by nearly 500 votes, which would appear to be outside that recount margin, at last count.

Her win would mark a significant victory for the single-payer push within the Democratic Party: one of its proponents prevailing over a well-known quasi-incumbent with Democratic voters and still likely able to contend in a competitive general election.

Who is Kara Eastman?

Eastman started the Omaha Healthy Kids Alliance in Omaha before running for office. She was endorsed by the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, a lefty national grassroots group, during the primary.

She notably endorsed Medicare-for-all in this district, Omaha and the surrounding area, which is much more of a swing region than the rest of Nebraska. Without naming Ashford, her campaign ad said that she was the only candidate in the race who supported universal health care. (Though, as BuzzFeed documented, it’s not clear what Democratic voters here think when they hear that a candidate supports Medicare-for-all.)

“I’m tired of hearing Democrats don’t have a backbone, that we don’t stand for anything,” Eastman says in the ad. “That changes now.”

Eastman also supports universal background checks, overturning Citizens United, raising taxes on corporations and the wealthy, and decriminalizing marijuana.

The Nebraska Second congressional district 2018 election, briefly explained

Though the DCCC did put its brand behind Ashford, which would make Eastman’s win something of a loss for Washington Democrats, the Second District should be competitive in the general election no matter who the Democratic candidate is.

Incumbent Rep. Don Bacon (R-NE) beat Ashford in 2016 by a single percentage point, and this district has a history of narrow elections. Voters here elected Ashford by three points in 2014. Trump won here by just two percentage points in 2016.

Cook and the other major election prognosticators think this is a toss-up race in 2018. It could be a pivotal pickup in the Democratic bid to flip 24 seats and take back the House this fall.