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The Latest: Bacon re-elected in Nebraska’s 2nd District

November 7, 2018
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Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts address Republican supporters during the election night party in Omaha, Neb., Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2018. (AP Photo/Nati Harnik)

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — The Latest on Nebraska’s general election (all times local):

1 a.m.

U.S. Rep. Don Bacon has won a second term in Nebraska’s 2nd Congressional District, defeating Democratic hopeful Kara Eastman in one of the state’s few competitive races.

Bacon’s win on Tuesday ensures that the district encompassing Omaha and most of its suburbs will remain in Republican hands.

Bacon has described himself as a conservative supporter of President Donald Trump who is open to compromise on issues including immigration, health care and climate change.

Eastman campaigned on a progressive platform that focused on Medicare-for-all, greater gun control and tuition-free college for families making less than $125,000 a year.

Bacon was first elected to the seat in 2014 after defeating one-term Democratic Rep. Brad Ashford.

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12:25 a.m.

Nebraska voters have approved a ballot measure to expand Medicaid coverage to an estimated 90,000 low-income residents under federal health care law.

Tuesday’s vote was a victory for advocates who fought for years to extend the current program, only to have lawmakers reject their efforts six times.

Supporters say the measure will help the so-called working poor in industries that generally don’t provide health insurance, such as construction and fast food.

Opponents voiced concerns about the measure’s expected cost to the state, even though the federal government will cover 93 percent of the expense next year and 90 percent in subsequent years. Lawmakers will now have to find a way to cover the rest of the cost, estimated at $40 million to $69 million a year.

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11:50 p.m.

Republican Bob Evnen has been chosen as Nebraska’s secretary of state.

Evnen defeated Democratic challenger Spencer Danner in Tuesday’s contest to replace Republican Secretary of State John Gale, who is retiring.

Evnen, a Lincoln attorney, touted his support for requiring voters to show identification at the polls. Gale supported similar proposals, but they always stalled in the Legislature.

Evnen also highlighted his work as a co-founder of Nebraskans for the Death Penalty, the group that campaigned successfully to overturn the Legislature’s 2015 vote to abolish capital punishment. As secretary of state, Evnen will serve on the Nebraska Board of Pardons, which has the power to commute sentences.

Danner, of Omaha, promised to push for automatic voter registration for residents when they go to the Department of Motor Vehicles.

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9:45 p.m.

Republican Rep. Jeff Fortenberry has won an eighth term representing Nebraska’s 1st Congressional District, which includes Lincoln.

Fortenberry defeated Democratic challenger Jessica McClure in Tuesday’s election. The two differed on health care, immigration and the federal tax law signed by President Donald Trump last year.

McClure faced an uphill battle against Fortenberry, an incumbent in a GOP-leaning district who held about $1.9 million in campaign cash as of October. McClure raised about $57,000.

Fortenberry faced large crowds and criticism at town hall events last year over health care and the GOP’s attempts to repeal the Affordable Care Act. He argued that some parts of the law are worthwhile, such as protecting people with preexisting conditions, but opposed other parts. McClure noted that Fortenberry voted for the GOP bill that undermined the law.

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9:25 p.m.

Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts has won re-election, defeating a Republican-turned-Democratic challenger who campaigned on promises to reduce partisanship at the state Capitol.

Ricketts’ victory on Tuesday allows him to serve a second and final term in the GOP-dominated state. Ricketts ran on pledges to lower taxes, keep tight reins on state spending and promote Nebraska businesses domestically and abroad.

State Sen. Bob Krist, a former Republican, pitched himself as a governor who would work collaboratively with lawmakers to reduce property taxes. He also promised promote nonpartisanship in the Legislature, where he served for 10 years.

Ricketts was first elected in 2014. The former TD Ameritrade executive is the son of billionaire Joe Ricketts and a co-owner of the Chicago Cubs.

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9:15 p.m.

Republican Sen. Deb Fischer has cruised to a second term in Nebraska, defeating Lincoln city councilwoman Jane Raybould.

Fischer won Tuesday despite Raybould’s efforts to cast the first-term incumbent as a Washington insider who sided with her party even when it was harmful to the GOP-friendly state. Raybould pitched herself to voters as an outsider who would look for ways to lower health care costs.

Fischer rejected the criticism and noted her work on Senate committees focused on agriculture and the military, both important areas to Nebraska with its farm economy and Offutt Air Force Base.

The candidates differed on their support for new U.S. Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, who faced sexual assault allegations during his confirmation process. Kavanaugh denied the allegations. Fischer voted to confirm Kavanaugh, while Raybould said the allegations merited further investigation.

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8:35 p.m.

Republican Rep. Adrian Smith has cruised to a seventh term in Nebraska’s GOP-friendly 3rd Congressional District.

Smith easily defeated Democratic challenger Paul Theobald in Tuesday’s election. The vast, rural district Smith represents is one of the most Republican-heavy in the nation. Smith far outraised Theobald, with more than $1 million in campaign cash on hand, compared to $19,000 raised by his opponent.

Smith campaigned on his continued opposition to the Affordable Care Act and sought to add new work requirements for people to qualify for federal assistance.

Theobald, a professor and hog farmer, touted his support for universal health care and raising the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour.

8 p.m.

Polls have closed in Nebraska for an election that will determine contests for governor, Congress and a ballot measure to expand Medicaid under the federal health care law.

Voters had plenty of major races and issues to consider in Tuesday’s election. The Medicaid expansion measure would provide coverage to an estimated 90,000 uninsured, low-income residents.

They also had to choose between incumbent Republican Gov. Pete Ricketts and his Democratic challenger, state Sen. Bob Krist, of Omaha. GOP Sen. Deb Fischer is seeking another term as well, facing off against Democrat Jane Raybould.

U.S. Rep. Don Bacon, a Republican, was seeking a second term in a 2nd Congressional District race with Democratic challenger Kara Eastman.

Any voters who were in line at their polling station by 8 p.m. Central Time can still cast a ballot.

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5:10 p.m.

The county that includes several Republican-leaning Omaha suburbs and Offutt Air Force Base is seeing stronger-than-expected voter turnout.

Sarpy County Election Commissioner Michelle Andahl says she wouldn’t be surprised to see 60 percent of registered voters cast a ballot in the election. That would be a sharp jump from the last midterm election in 2014, which drew about 45 percent of registered voters. Andahl had predicted turnout of about 53 percent.

Andahl says early voting played a large role. County officials sent 25,000 early ballots to voters who requested them and have received about 95 percent back. Voters have until 8 p.m. Tuesday to return early ballots to the election commission’s main office or one of its drop boxes located throughout the county.

Turnout in Sarpy County topped 74 percent in the 2016, a high-interest presidential turnout year with a tight race for the 2nd Congressional District, which includes part of the county. That district is up for grabs again with a competitive race between Republican U.S. Rep. Don Bacon and a progressive Democratic challenger, Kara Eastman.

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3:55 p.m.

Voter turnout in Nebraska’s largest county is slightly higher than expected so far on Election Day, particularly in Omaha’s Republican-heavy western suburbs and pockets of Democratic-leaning north Omaha.

Douglas County Election Commissioner Brian Kruse says most polling places had seen between 150 and 200 voters apiece as of noon. Kruse called it, “Brisk — more than normal, but not presidential-year numbers.”

Kruse says more than 80,000 voters have received early-voting ballots or voted early in person. That’s more than double the number that cast an early ballot in the 2014 midterm election.

Kruse had projected the county would receive about 65,000 early ballots. Both major political parties made a concerted effort this year to lock in as many early votes as possible.

The county will continue to accept early ballots at its drop-box locations until 8 p.m. Tuesday.

Kruse says his office has encountered a few small problems when poll workers called in sick, but overall the election is running smoothly.

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12:25 p.m.

A Lincoln man who describes himself as a nonpartisan voter says he voted against the Medicaid measure because expanding the program would crowd out those who need it most.

Seventy-one-year-old Brad Ferguson said Tuesday after voting that he thinks the current program already serves too many people and that expanding it would “let more people get on that don’t deserve it.”

Ferguson also says he voted for Democrats Bob Krist in the governor’s race and Jane Raybould for U.S. Senate because he thinks Democrats are needed to balance out the GOP’s political power in the President Donald Trump era.

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12:20 p.m.

A man who moved to Omaha for a medical residency says he intended to vote for incumbent Republican Don Bacon in the 2nd Congressional District race.

John Weseman said Tuesday that Bacon appeals more to his Libertarian ideals and morals than Democrat Kara Eastman.

Weseman also says he tends to support Republicans so he intended to vote for Gov. Pete Ricketts. Weseman says “it seems like Ricketts has been doing OK.”

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10:15 a.m.

A 57-year-old auto parts courier says he supported the incumbents in Tuesday’s top races.

Leo Liekhus said after voting in northwest Omaha that he backed the officeholders because he’s comfortable with the jobs they are doing.

He voted to give U.S. Sen. Deb Fischer another six-year term in Washington, saying, “She’s been in there, and I haven’t heard anything bad about her.”

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9:50 a.m.

A 20-year-old University of Nebraska-Lincoln student says he voted for all the Democratic candidates on his ballot because of his disgust with President Donald Trump.

Ryan Pawloski is studying broadcast journalism, and he said after voting Tuesday that he’s deeply uncomfortable with the president’s remarks that reporters are “enemies of the people.”

Pawloski, who grew up in Hastings, says he also voted for the measure to expand Medicaid in Nebraska, seeing it as a way to help the working poor.

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8 a.m.

Polls have opened in Nebraska as voters statewide prepare to decide on races for governor, Congress and whether to expand the state’s Medicaid system.

Ballots can be cast until 8 p.m. Tuesday — 7 p.m. Mountain Time.

One measure in the hands of voters is whether to expand Medicaid health coverage to an estimated 90,000 low-income residents who don’t qualify for the current program but earn too much to get federal tax subsidies that would help them afford insurance on their own.

Republican Gov. Pete Ricketts is seeking re-election against Democratic state Sen. Bob Krist of Omaha. GOP Sen. Deb Fischer is seeking a new term as well, facing off against Democratic hopeful Jane Raybould.

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