Bacon and Eastman

Rep. Don Bacon and Kara Eastman shake hands before a a debate in October 2018.

The inappropriate actions of the Omaha fire union president at a bar have become fodder for political wrangling in the race to represent the Omaha area in Congress.

Kara Eastman, a Democratic contender to unseat Republican Rep. Don Bacon in the 2nd District, took aim at Bacon for writing a letter of support for Steve LeClair, the union president.

LeClair, who remains president of the union, has been fired from his firefighting job over his actions at Tiger Tom’s Pub on Nov. 9, 2018. He is battling to get his job back, and Bacon wrote a letter of support on his behalf.

In a press release Sunday, Eastman called on Bacon to make public his letter supporting LeClair and said Bacon should apologize. She criticized Bacon for using his position to defend “a perpetrator of violence against a woman of color because of the endorsement and money the perpetrator arranged for him.”

The fire union, under LeClair’s leadership, endorsed Bacon, who defeated Eastman, in the 2018 general election.

Eastman’s statement drew pushback from her Democratic primary challenger, Ann Ashford, as well as Bacon.

Ashford said Bacon’s letter of support “was about, after being lawfully adjudicated, whether an individual has a right to re-enter the workforce in his profession.”

She said there are plenty of actions on which to challenge Bacon’s record. “This just doesn’t happen to be one of them,” she said.

Ashford’s husband, former U.S. Rep. Brad Ashford, also wrote a letter of support for LeClair.

The exchange of statements was prompted by a Sunday World-Herald report on the fire union’s effort to have Mayor Jean Stothert charged with felony witness tampering. Stothert had talked with Bacon about pulling his letter of support for LeClair, which the union said constituted tampering. But Douglas County Attorney Don Kleine declined to file charges. Stothert said she was simply informing Bacon that he might be subpoenaed to testify if he sent a letter on LeClair’s behalf.

In response to Eastman’s criticism, Bacon said Sunday that his letter of support was a result of his working relationship with LeClair, not the incident at the bar.

“(I) was asked to provide a letter describing my positive working relationship for the past few years with Mr. LeClair on issues of importance to the fire union, that were for the betterment of all first responders,” Bacon said.

Bacon also disavowed LeClair’s actions.

“I do not condone the actions he is accused of using towards a woman,” Bacon said. “I don’t tolerate or excuse treating anyone disrespectfully.”

The incident at Tiger Tom’s unfolded over two hours as LeClair made three failed advances on a woman, telling her, “If I was not married, I would take you to the bathroom.”

The third time he was rebuffed, he knocked the woman into the bar. Others at the bar ejected LeClair. The woman, who is black, later told authorities that LeClair, who is white, whispered “white power” into her ear as he punched her in the back.

LeClair pleaded no contest to misdemeanor assault and disorderly conduct. He was sentenced to six months of probation.

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Nancy Gaarder helps cover public safety and weather events as an editor on The World-Herald's breaking news desk. Follow her on Twitter @gaarder. Phone: 402-444-1102.

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