Nebraska’s 2nd Congressional District probably doesn’t strike anyone as a potential hotbed of progressive politics, but, after last Tuesday’s primary, the area finds itself at the epicenter of the progressive movement. The head of a local non-profit, progressive Kara Eastman, eked out a win over long-serving Democrat, Brad Ashford. If Eastman’s surprise win is any indication, the 2018 battle for control of congress will be an interesting one.
Eastman’s win has galvanized progressive groups around the country, hoping to see more candidates address the issues Eastman championed, like Medicare for All, free college, and an assault weapons ban. It is those same issues, however, that are giving Republicans, eager to hold on to their House majority, some hope. Many of the non-partisan groups that monitor campaigns have moved this race, with Eastman’s vocal support for such progressive issues, from a toss-up into the Republican column.
The race is also seen as a wake-up call to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) and all of the establishment Democrats, who backed Ashford, that these issues, seen only a few months ago as being too progressive, are catching on with more mainstream liberals. It will be tough waters for the Democratic Party to navigate, carefully balancing these progressive issues that liberal voters clearly back, with the more moderate values of the independent voters the party will have to win over to compete in areas that President Trump won in 2016.
In the hopes of maintaining some equilibrium, the DCCC has praised Eastman’s victory, noting that its support for Ashford only stemmed from the view that he was better situated to win in November’s general election. The more progressive groups, like the Progressive Campaign Change Committee, who backed Eastman, are preparing to capitalize on this excitement and energy, taking their candidates all the way to the general election, and if that means taking on the DCCC as well, they don’t seem to mind.