Second district Republicans talk spending and immigration in primary campaign

The 2016 election will be the first reelection test for Democratic Congressman Brad Ashford. (Photo by Grant Gerlock, NET News)
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May 6, 2016 - 6:45am

Second district Representative Brad Ashford is the only Democrat among Nebraska’s D.C. delegation. As he starts off his bid for reelection, two Republicans are among the candidates competing for the job representing the Omaha area in Congress.


When he was voted to the House of Representatives in 2014, Brad Ashford became the first Democrat in 20 years to hold Nebraska’s second district in the Omaha area. Now, he’s campaigning for reelection.

Ashford’s potential challengers include two Republicans: retired Air Force general Don Bacon and Chip Maxwell, an Omaha attorney and radio host.

Don Bacon served 29 years in the Air Force including time as the commander at Offutt Air Force Base in Bellevue. Bacon says his background in military leadership would be an asset in Congress.

“I think people want to see more fresh faces and outside success than people who have just been successful politically,” Bacon said. “So I think the fact that I served nearly 29 and a half years and I commanded and did so successfully, that’s a difference right there.”

Republican candidate, Don Bacon is a former commander at Offutt Air Force Base in Bellevue, Neb. (Photo courtesy of the candidate)

Even though Bacon has never held elected office, he’s been endorsed by high profile Republican officeholders like Governor Pete Ricketts and Senator Deb Fischer.

In Congress, Bacon says one of his top priorities would be reducing the national debt and balancing the budget. But he is concerned about recent cuts in military spending. He says military equipment and personnel are under strain.

“I think there’s some things we can reform in the military, but I don’t want our capability or capacity cut any more unless you want to rethink our strategy,” Bacon said.

Chip Maxwell, the other Republican candidate in the second district, says defense needs to be part of budget negotiations.

“If we’re serious about budget reform it’s one of the largest line items in the budget,” Maxwell said. “Or then you’re going to have people say, ‘Oh well, social programs, that’s our sacred cow so we’re not going to touch those. Oh well, entitlements, that’s our sacred cow so we’re not going to touch those,’ and you can’t get anything done.”

Maxwell says he has the political track record that Bacon lacks to serve in Congress. He’s been on the Douglas County Board and served as a state senator.

“I have a record. I have scar tissue on me from battling the Democrats and sometimes Republicans on various issues,” Maxwell said. “People know who I am. I know this community, this community knows me.”

More on the election from NET News: Campaign Connection 2016


Republican candidate Chip Maxwell is an Omaha attorney. He also hosts a political radio talk show. (Photo courtesy of the candidate)

Bacon and Maxwell actually hold similar positions on most issues. They want to balance the budget, pay down the debt, ease regulations on small businesses and protect gun rights. They also want to put more resources toward fighting ISIS.

There are some differences though, on military spending and on immigration policy.

The difference on immigration is about how to treat the estimated 11-12 million undocumented immigrants living in the U.S. Bacon says he would not allow them to gain citizenship, but he thinks there should be legal options for some individuals.

“I’m a believer that a one-size-fits-all is not what America wants,” Bacon said. “When you have people serving in Iraq in the Middle East right now who were illegal, are we going to deport them illegally? I would say no.”

Maxwell says he would not support legal status for anyone who’s in the U.S. illegally.

“It is inevitable that after a few years the argument will surface, ‘Well, you know, they’re paying taxes, they’re acting like citizens, they really should get the rights of full citizenship.’ It’s amnesty,” Maxwell said. “If you’re here illegally you need to go back and get in the right line and get properly screened.”

Nebraska’s second district Republican primary has gotten some surprising attention from national Democratic groups.  The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has spent more than $400,000 over the last few weeks on ads (like this one) that seem to be an attempt to influence who becomes the Republican candidate.

Democrat Brad Ashford runs unopposed in Tuesday’s primary. He defeated Republican incumbent Lee Terry in 2014 to become the first Democrat in 20 years to serve the Omaha-area second district. (Photo courtesy of the candidate)

For his part, democratic incumbent Brad Ashford says the ads aren’t part of his campaign.

This week Ashford visited the Douglas County Election Commission office in Omaha to fill out an early ballot. He said if he’s reelected, he’ll work on bipartisan support for issues like building a new veterans hospital in Omaha and re-paving the runway at Offutt Air Force Base.

Although he hosted President Barack Obama on his visit to Nebraska in January, Ashford says he’s not interested in playing party politics.

“I have supported him on some (issues) and I’ve disagreed with him on some things but we can still work together, obviously,” Ashford said. “The President’s been very helpful on the runway and some of the other issues. You have to work with everybody and that’s my promise.”

Ashford will find out who he’s running against May 10.

In addition to the Republican candidates, three Libertarians are competing in the primary election: Steven Laird, Andy Shambaugh, and Jeffrey Stein.

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