Welcome to my diary series titled Majority Savers! I will run a new article every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. The goal of this series is to highlight races that may make or break our current slender majorities in Congress. That means I will start more with incumbent Senators and House members until some primary elections are settled. If I have time, I will expand it to governors as well in critical swing states.
If you want to find my previous entries in this series, I recommend following me or searching for #MajoritySavers as a tag!
I have six ground rules behind the philosophy of this series. I’d ask you all to respect them as best you can, because these are taking me quite a long time to write. Here are my ground rules.
This Nebraska state senator is running for a district that Biden won, but traditionally has turnout problems. The GQP hideously gerrymandered the district to make it that much harder to win. Majority Savers is heading to the Omaha metro area to profile State Sen. Tony Vargas, who is our nominee for Nebraska’s 2nd district against Rep. Don Bacon!
There isn’t a ton of background on Vargas, so I have to rely on his campaign website for most of this information.
- Vargas is the son of immigrants, and the first person to graduate from college from his family. He went to Rochester University and Pace University to get an education degree.
- Vargas was an educator before becoming involved in politics. He also worked other jobs in the education and non-profit sectors to improve outcomes in the city of Omaha and statewide. He joined the Omaha school board in 2013, which opened his horizons to politics.
- Vargas was first elected to the State Senate from district 7 in 2016, and has held that seat ever since. He is known for being mild mannered and working to get things done in Lincoln.
Vargas seems to have a pragmatic liberal voting record in the Nebraska legislature, and there is no reason why that record cannot continue in Congress. Here are some critical issues he is highlighting:
Health Care and Abortion: Vargas, if elected to Congress, will look to create a public option for the ACA to help lower costs of insurance. He would also look to allow Medicare and Medicaid to negotiate prescription drug prices in order to lower costs. Finally, he supports the right to choose and would vote to codify Roe if elected.
Education: As a former public school teacher, it makes sense that education is near the top of his priority list. He would look into ways to retain teachers and also recruit new ones. He would expand Pell Grants and scholarships to combat the student debt crisis in the future. Finally, he would expand opportunities at trade schools to combat the looming trades shortage.
Renewable Energy and the Environment: Vargas realizes that clean, renewable energy is our future, and especially wind and solar power in Nebraska. Vargas will look to expand opportunities to manufacture and support these industries in the USA. He would crack down on polluters, which have been a problem in the Omaha area in the past.
Recent Elections —
2020 President: Joe Biden (D) 52.2%, TFG (R-inc) 45.8%
2020 House: Don Bacon (R-inc) 50.8%, Kara Eastman (D) 46.2%
2022 Race Rating: Likely Republican
2022 PVI: R+1
Nebraska’s 2nd district usually is Republican in nature, at least since the 1994 Republican Revolution. Even though it covers a major city in Omaha, the city itself was conservative enough to prevent the Democratic Party from capturing the congressional seat or the sole Electoral College vote on offer. As a reminder, Nebraska and Maine split their Electoral College votes by district, meaning each district can give their electoral vote to a different candidate from the statewide winner.
In fact, for this district, it has happened twice in recent memory. Obama in 2008 carried this district when it was more compact and centered solely on Omaha and its suburbs. This shocked the GQP in the state to the point that they subtly gerrymandered the district so that redder suburbs were in the district in exchange for bluer suburbs going into another district.
This seemed to work until 2014, when counter to the red wave, moderate Democratic Rep. Brad Ashford knocked off GQP Rep. Lee Terry in a major upset. This showed that the district was still in play, and Clinton made a play for it in 2016 only to come up short. Ashford was ejected as well, as current Rep. Don Bacon won back the seat in 2016.
Bacon has had two tough challenges in a row from progressive Kara Eastman, and that is without DCCC support and with the Ashfords knifing her in the back. To further show that this district can be won under the right conditions, Biden won the electoral vote in 2020. That prompted another grotesque gerrymander, but the GQP couldn’t make it a district TFG won. That gives Vargas an opening, but Bacon is a skilled campaigner which is why it will be a tough slog.
Political Tour of the District
This district looks grotesque for a reason, and that reason is to try and protect incumbent Rep. Don Bacon by finding as many conservative voters as possible. The district could still fall this decade, but it will be a much tougher task with Omaha often having turnout problems amongst the Democratic voters we rely on most.
Here’s where this race will be won in the 2nd district.
Omaha, Omaha, Omaha: This city is home to some very blue voters, but the problem is that turnout usually sucks in the city. Vargas will have to convince every single voter possible in the blue precincts of the city to turn out to have a chance at this contest. It will be a herculean undertaking, but it is his home base and he has a better chance than Eastman does now that Ashford has passed away and cannot meddle in the race.
Here’s where we need to keep the margins down, or we lose.
Omaha suburbs: These areas are still red and conservative, but less so than the rural beet red portions attached to the district. Vargas has to match the Biden margin in the rest of Douglas County outside of Omaha or he will lose to Bacon.
Rural Saunders and Sarpy County: These counties are hopelessly red, and Vargas as a minority will not win these majority white counties over. He is best off ignoring them and focusing on Omaha and its suburbs because he isn’t going to peel many votes away from here.
Activism — Help How You Can!
State Sen. Tony Vargas needs some fundraising help from us, as he is unlikely to get it from the national organizations mostly focused on incumbent protection. He raised an acceptable $326k in Quarter 1, but that won’t be enough to make it a race in this district. The saving grace is that Rep. Bacon also isn’t fundraising well, as he only raised $475k for the quarter.
In terms of cash on hand, Rep. Bacon has a 2-1 advantage currently on Tony Vargas. Vargas has $530k cash on hand, while the incumbent has $1.11 MILLION dollars on hand. Incumbents always have that kind of advantage, which is a perk of being in Congress. This is a longshot race, but a donation now helps build infrastructure for future runs at Bacon. Donate for that reason alone.
DONATE TO TONY VARGAS HERE
Vargas will need some help canvassing and organizing and updating voter rolls. Nebraska isn’t a state we will win any time soon, so he especially needs help to build campaign infrastructure. Sign up for his campaign at https://www.vargasfornebraska.com/. If you are in the Omaha area, do it today!
State Sen. Vargas is working on building his social media game, which on Twitter is a respectable 10K followers. He will need more to build his fundraising network and to get his message out.
Vargas is also active on Facebook at vargasfornebraska. He also has an Instragram account at tonyvargasne. If you are on those social media platforms, go ahead and take a look!
Omaha may be a tough place to win, but I am confident that State Sen. Tony Vargas has what it takes to do so. It may not happen in 2022, but if he runs again in 2024 (or someone else does), this district is one to keep an eye on. My motivation for Majority Savers comes from readers and responses like yours, so thank you for reading yet again on article #32!
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