Congressional candidate Kara Eastman tapped into a combination of her national progressive network and more establishment Democrats to replenish her war chest for the general election.
Her Republican opponent, Rep. Don Bacon, had no primary opponent and starts with a 4-to-1 cash advantage. He has had a steady flow of fundraising, with much of his most recent fundraising coming from business and agriculture groups.
According to campaign finance reports released this week, Bacon ended the second quarter on June 30 with a healthy $1 million in the bank, compared with Eastman’s $260,000.
“I am deeply grateful for the generous support from our community,” said Bacon in a press release. “I’m thankful that so many Nebraskans are standing up for principled conservative leadership.”
Eastman’s campaign spokeswoman, Heather Aliano, said donors responded to Eastman’s message.
“It’s exciting to see that resonating with people and it’s exciting to see them opening up their wallets to help her get elected,” Aliano said. “And I think it’s going to be a very competitive race.”
Bacon’s advantage is to be expected. Randall Adkins, a political science professor at the University of Nebraska at Omaha, noted that incumbents often fundraise better than challengers because they have a proven record. On top of that, Eastman had to spend much of her cash in her hotly contested primary with former Rep. Brad Ashford.
Still, Adkins said Eastman now needs to decide how much time she spends fundraising and how much she’s going to campaign.
“The more cash on hand you have going into Labor Day, the better,” Adkins said.
Overall, during this election cycle, Bacon has raised about $2 million, compared to Eastman’s $780,000.
Kyle Kondik, an analyst at the University of Virginia Center for Politics, said Eastman’s roughly $460,000 haul between April 1 and June 30 is respectable. But he noted that many other Democratic campaigns around the country pulled in much more fundraising than normal, dwarfing Eastman’s figure.
And, he said, “money’s important, but it’s not the only thing, particularly in a wave-style environment, if that’s indeed what we have in November. There will be a lot of Republican incumbents who outspend their opponents and then lose.”
And even in recent Nebraska 2nd Congressional District elections, incumbents have outspent their challengers only to lose.
Ashford spent $2.5 million compared to Bacon’s $1.6 million in 2016, when Ashford lost the congressional seat by about a percentage point. In 2014, Ashford spent $1.2 million to unseat Lee Terry, who spent $3 million.
In the days and weeks leading up to the general election, it’s not just the campaigns of Bacon and Eastman that will be reaching out to voters. Nebraskans will probably be hearing from outside groups hoping to sway the election.
And those groups are usually paying attention to campaign finance hauls to see how much support a candidate can amass. National parties and other outside groups tend to spend more in districts they see as winnable.
Eastman, a nonprofit executive and a member of the Metropolitan Community College board, was a surprise winner over Ashford, who had already gotten the attention from several of those national groups. Now Eastman’s challenge is to persuade those groups to support her as fully as they supported Ashford.
One big one is the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. That group, which represents House Democrats, threw its support behind Ashford in the primary, putting him on its “red to blue” list, which signifies important elections.
The group has not put Eastman on the list, though her campaign said DCCC officials are coming to Omaha to meet with her campaign this week.
Still, during this fundraising period she received support from traditional Democratic organizations and people, including Emily’s List, former Sen. Bob Kerrey and former Omaha Mayor Mike Fahey. But much of her support also was drawn from newer left-leaning groups like the Progressive Change Campaign Committee.
On the Republican side, Bacon, a retired brigadier general, has already seen intense support from the Congressional Leadership Fund, a political action committee associated with Paul Ryan. And other outside groups have aired ads for the congressman, such as the American Action Network’s ad praising him for his yes vote on the tax overhaul.
Bacon received donations from many political action committees, including that of Vice President Mike Pence, the Nebraska Farm Bureau and various other business and agriculture groups.