Two Democrats have announced their bid for Nebraska’s Second Congressional District, aiming to unseat a three-term Republican in one of the state’s few competitive races.

Alisha Shelton and State Sen. Tony Vargas, both Democrats, will challenge Congressman Don Bacon for his congressional seat that encompasses the Omaha metro area in the 2022 election. Bacon has held the seat against Democratic challengers who’ve failed to build winning coalitions among the state’s largest population of registered Democrats in an overwhelmingly conservative state.

Congressman Don Bacon (R)

Alisha Shelton is a mental health practitioner who ran unsuccessfully for Senate in 2020. She also received backing from the Nebraska Democratic Party after Chris Janicek, who won the primary, refused to end his candidacy following allegations of sexist and racist comments. As a Black woman, she wants to bring representation to an office that’s never elected a person of color or a woman.

“Growing up, my mom would say, ‘We have to pay attention. When somebody needs us, we have to be there for them,’” Shelton, who announced her candidacy on July 6, said in an announcement email. “That has been my mantra my whole life. I’ve been paying attention, and I see that so many hard-working families in Nebraska are ready for a brighter future.

Vargas has served in the Nebraska Legislature since 2017, representing District 7 which encompasses downtown Omaha and the eastern portion of South Omaha. Vargas is the son of Peruvian immigrants and in recent years has brought bills to address housing inequality and issues inside the state’s meatpacking plants. In his announcement, Vargas said he’s running for his dad, who immigrated to America and worked to provide Vargas and his siblings with a chance at the American dream. Vargas father died from COVID-19 in 2020.

“Taking on Don Bacon is a huge feat,” Vargas said in his announcement email. “To be blunt: It will take a village to unseat him.”

Nebraska’s Second Congressional District has been out of grasp for local and national Democrats in recent years that’s led to questions about strategy and identity from the state’s Democratic leadership to grassroots activists. Despite President Joe Biden winning the district in 2020, only the second time the district gave its sole electoral vote to a Democrat, congressional candidate Kara Eastman lost by a wider margin than her 2018 run.

In April the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee named the district one of its 22 competitive House races for 2022.

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