The Reader’s Interview with Kara Eastman

Democrat Candidate Kara Eastman is running against Republican incumbent Congressman Don Bacon.


The Reader interviewed Kara Eastman on Oct. 23, 2020 about issues such as racial inequality, criminal justice reform, healthcare and climate change. Eastman is facing Republican Congressman Don Bacon for the second time. In 2018 she lost by a slim margin and has sought to build a broader coalition of supporters to close the gap.

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Chris Bowling:

With that being said, we’re recording. So my first question is, obviously we’ve seen a huge outpouring of just a lot of people taking to the streets, talking about social and racial inequality this summer. Obviously, they’re not just limited to things with the police, but we’re talking about housing, access to education, healthcare, employment all that sort of stuff. So I guess I’m just curious whether you believe that we have these sort of inadequacies in our society and in our city and what responsibility, as a Congresswoman, what would your responsibility would be to address those?

Kara Eastman:

Sure. Well, I’ve been working in nonprofit work, in social services and fighting racial, social and environmental justice, fighting for them my entire career. So of course, I’ve seen firsthand where there are issues where it’s not just about inequality, but inequity, and the need for us to address systemic racism in a way that is thoughtful, evidence-based, and we need to do this now. I mean, we needed to do it a long time ago, frankly. But I think first and foremost, as a representative, you have to be able to acknowledge this. And any elected official who isn’t willing to is not fit to serve in office because lives are at stake.

Kara Eastman:

And as somebody who has worked in housing development in North Omaha for years, in South Omaha for years, I’ve seen how racial disparities actually impact people’s quality of housing. I’ve seen how public health disparities impact children of color. We have children living in North and South Omaha who are brought home from the hospital as babies, and they are poisoned inside their homes by lead and then expected to thrive. And this ends up costing us a lot of money. So as a representative, I intend to do something about these things. I’ve developed an equity plan, that’s on our website because people would ask me, “What are you going to do that directly impacts this district?” And I wanted people to see that I have the experience and expertise in things like housing, in looking at reliable public transportation, in education, also in creating opportunities for entrepreneurs and small businesses that we desperately need right now or never.

Kara Eastman:

And in the middle of this pandemic where so many a community, I mean, when we look at neighborhoods in North and South Omaha, especially mostly in the Eastern part of our city, although there are some around the whole district that have been traditionally ignored, ignored by politicians, ignored by business investment, where people are living in poverty, where they’re food desserts, where people don’t have access to the things that they need and deserve, what happens after the pandemic? Those are not the communities that traditionally would be first. They wouldn’t be prioritized. It would be wealthier communities that wouldn’t be. And so I want to flip that model and say, “I’m going to stand up and fight for all of Omaha for all of the district and especially those communities that need my voice the most.”

Chris Bowling:

Sure. I guess, you touched on a couple of specific things, but I wondered if you could just talk a little bit more specifically, ’cause obviously like you said, these are just things that we’ve been dealing with for decades and decades. And they’re very a heart kind of set into our city. So I guess I’m just curious if you have any sort of specific things that you’d like to get into as far as how you would go about flipping that model, how you go about addressing these things?

Kara Eastman:

Sure. Well, we can take housing for example. Right now we have 84,000 homes at our city that were built before 1978. That’s the year lead based paint was banned. Around the district we have a lot of older housing. And what we need is the political will to invest in fixing those houses. That means mitigating lead based paint. That means addressing radon and asthma triggers in the home. So that means removing the lead service lines, because we have 17,000 lead service lines in Omaha. We could be Flint with a switch of a water source. It’s lack of political will that drives, that has prevented the investment in these things.

Kara Eastman:

And so with the right politician in place, who says, “I’m going to bring in public, private partnerships,” things I’ve done already in the city. I’m going to make sure that we’re getting government grants. I’m going to make sure that those grants are available to Omaha. I’m going to figure out ways to work with community leaders, as I’ve always done to bring people together to solve these problems. Because in Omaha, we can fix these, we know how to do these things, and we actually have the resources and we have such an amazing philanthropic community that would be incredibly interested in this. We just have not really seen the political will at the federal level to get this stuff done.

Chris Bowling:

Yeah, for sure. And I guess, how would you see yourself being able to partner with city and state politics as well, kind of in that realm?

Kara Eastman:

Well, that’s what I’ve done. And so when I started Omaha Healthy Kids Alliance, the majority of our board of directors were appointees from Nebraska’s delegation. So that means I worked with Lee Terry, Chuck Haydel, Mike Johanns. I actually was able to work with Mike Johanns so that he was the only US Senator on the Republican side, that would co-sponsor the Healthy Housing Council Act in the Senate. And that was directly because of my work. I’ve worked with city officials. I’ve worked with city planning. I worked with the mayor’s office before to get government grants into our city, to get private money into our city. So that’s really the experience that I’ve had, and I want to bring that expertise and experience to a position in Congress and do it even bigger and better.

Chris Bowling:

Sure, definitely. Kind of switching gears into climate change. So obviously we’re seeing the effects of climate change all around the world, all around the nation. But even in Nebraska, we’re seeing some droughts out West, we’re seeing, I mean, obviously that’s not your district, but we’re seeing droughts out West, we’re seeing heavier rainfall out here. The effects of climate, I mean, with the floods and everything, we’re seeing very real effects from them. So I guess I just want you to talk a little bit about, are you a believer in climate change? What’s your plan to address them? What sort of new things do you feel you can bring to the table for this district?

Kara Eastman:

Yes, I am a 100% believer in climate change because I believe science, and we have the science that is showing that we don’t have time for politicians like my opponent, who kind of doubt the science on this. We don’t have time for them. We have to address this now. We need big bold policies when it comes to addressing climate chaos. And this is something that, while we know what’s happening around the planet, locally we see it and feel it with the floods. And our farming community has been decimated by flooding. So it’s time for us to look at creating a green workforce, a green workforce development program and making sure that all of that stuff is local.

Kara Eastman:

And that’s also work that I’ve done at Omaha Healthy Kids. We worked with the department of energy and the city of Omaha and had a program where we were creating energy efficient, safe, healthy housing. And that meant we were increasing the tax base for that community. It meant that we were improving conditions inside homes, making kids healthier, lowering utility costs for families living in poverty. And we know that they pay a lot more of a percentage of their income and utility bills than the rest of people. So this is how we actually start to move our economy forward. In the middle of this pandemic so many people have lost their jobs. This is one way we partner with community colleges, we partner with banks, we partner with small businesses, we get people trained. This is incredible work that could be done, all locally done and would also move the needle on climate.

Chris Bowling:

Yeah, definitely. Awesome. I’m trying to think if there’s anything else that I’d like to ask you about that. I don’t know. I think that does it for that probably. The other topic that I wanted to ask you about is criminal justice. So Nebraska has one of the most overcrowded prison systems in the country, where currently even though you wouldn’t know it by everything that’s going on, where at a, what’s the words that you’ve [inaudible 00:08:39], overcrowding emergency.

Kara Eastman:

[inaudible 00:08:39] 40% capacity.

Chris Bowling:

Right. And the debate now is whether we build a new prison or whether we try to change up our criminal justice system so we’re not putting as many people in prison. So I guess I’m just kind of curious what and obviously that connects back to people from lower socioeconomic classes, different minority groups are more affected and represented in the criminal justice system. So I guess I’m just curious where you kind of stand on that issue and what sort of responsibilities you kind of feel as it would be Congresswoman to address these things?

Kara Eastman:

Right. So a lot of this stuff would happen at the local level or at the state level, although I definitely intend to be a voice for this, because right now we don’t have a criminal justice system for everyone. We have a criminal legal system. And so we have to acknowledge where there are issues within the system when it comes prisons. I mean, this is costing us a fortune. And the answer is not building more prisons, the answer is certainly not private prison. The answer is looking at what we want to accomplish. If we actually want to prevent crime, if we actually want to address crime in our cities, in our States this is clearly not the answer, right?

Kara Eastman:

And I’ve talked to a number of people who work in the correction system here, and they’re telling me one, that they need to be paid appropriately. Imagine the work that they’re doing. That we need better pay, we need better facilities. We need facilities that are actually planned and by design there to promote rehabilitation. There are a number of people who are in prison who have mental health issues or substance abuse issues, that’s not the right place for them. I’m a social worker by trade. When I started off my career, I worked in mental health and we were able to refer people to inpatient psychiatric treatment, to inpatient centers. Those no longer exist. There has been a defunding of mental health services in our country. And frankly, in many ways, we ask the police to do too much when they’re having to act as mental health professionals and social workers as well.

Kara Eastman:

So there are models for this around the country of how we could do this better. The Cahoots program in Eugene, Oregon is one where they’ve heavily invested in mental health and social work services. And they’ve actually seen a decrease in crime as well as reduced costs. But in Nebraska, we have to do this better. And because we’re spending too much, and we’ve got far too many people in our prison system right now.

Chris Bowling:

Yeah, for sure. And I mean, just ’cause you you touched on the police a little bit, I guess I will ask you. So we had a huge debate here in August. Well, a pretty large debate, but it’s sort of a flash in the pan where it came up in the city council, obviously that let’s maybe not give the police department their $2 million raise, let’s maybe reinvest that elsewhere. And it got really locked up and are we talking about defunding the police? Well, those, this is a good idea is a bad idea. And ultimately that debate didn’t get rolling on that.

Chris Bowling:

But I guess I’m just curious from what you just talked about and what we’re talking about with community reinvestment and investing in mental health and investing in housing and things like that, where you kind of feel, obviously I don’t know what your responsibility as a Congress person would be in this realm, but when you think about the balance of that, whether we’re… The balance of how we’re spending our money in our city in our criminal justice versus reforming social inequities and things like that?

Kara Eastman:

Right. Well, as a member of Congress, I would be looking at this from a bigger picture, from a macro perspective, because again, a lot of the stuff you’re talking about happens at the local level. But this is where I do support the justice and policing act, my opponent does not. That we know that there are reforms that we could be taking to make our policing system more equitable. I also, like I said, believe that there are some times where we might need different kinds of investments and maybe even more investments. So my first job out of graduate school, I worked with a police department. We started a domestic violence program. And the way it worked was they would, when they were called out for domestic violence issues, they would refer clients to me. I would help them with court advocacy, counseling, translation services, and bilingual in English and Spanish.

Kara Eastman:

And I worked with the department and there were other investments that they made in this community as well around health services, mental health services, but this was part of a wraparound service that we provided. We decreased crime in that community by 90% by working together. So that was a time where actually more investment yielded incredible results. This is all very local. Everyone, every city, every community is different. After the killing of George Floyd, I reached out to our chief of police and said, “Tell me what we’re doing to prevent something like that from happening here.” And he had some good answers. I mean, he talked about the investments they’ve made a mental health and the investments in community policing.

Kara Eastman:

And actually in Omaha, we have an incredible program, The Pace Program, where you have law enforcement officials who are retired or active, we’re working with young kids, teaching them to play sports as a means of community policing. And what’s happening is these kids are growing up, getting to know the police in their neighborhood and vice versa. And imagine the impact that that has right, in terms of the reduction of crime, in terms of just the way that people feel about police. So this is a great model that we should be exploring, bringing out nationally as a way to bring people together and to heal communities and make sure that we all live in a safe and healthy community.

Chris Bowling:

Sure, definitely. And I guess also just kind of jumping off that with the idea of healing communities once again, this is a local thing, but it’s definitely not isolated to Omaha. This is something that I think a lot of communities around America are feeling. With the killing of James Scurlock and the trial or grand jury investigation with Jake Gardner and then everything that happened after that, and the protests that had been going on, there is a pretty harsh kind of fissure in our city right now between people that have been most effected by the legal system, the justice system, and people that are in elected office.

Chris Bowling:

I mean, specifically, I had an interview with [inaudible 00:15:13], where I was talking to her about protests and is there any sort of merit to what these people are in the streets protesting for? Should we be taking this seriously and looking at changing things? And her response to that was more that people were riding waves of anarchist, anti-police, anti-government sentiment, and that most people are happy with the job that police do in our community. So I guess to kind of bring it back around to healing, and once again, I don’t think that’s super specific in Omaha, I think a lot of places feel that way, but how do you feel that… What role do you think you would play in being able to bring those two sides together? Are those sides that are still bridgeable or does it feel it’s just another symptom of our hyper-partisan society?

Kara Eastman:

Well, there shouldn’t be partisan issues. I mean, when it comes to policing, there shouldn’t be partisanship in policing. Because imagine what kind of society that creates. We have a significant lack of leadership in this city, and then in this district, and in this state around these issues. And what should have happened was that the mayor, the congressperson, should have been attending the peaceful protest, talking to people, getting to know what happened, visiting with the Scurlock family as I did, to see what they’re going through and also meeting with law enforcement and bringing people together. And that is how we actually start to heal is when we have everybody at the table willing to listen, willing to have very difficult conversations. But there has been such a divide. And if that’s because of partisan politics, well, then that’s got to go.

Kara Eastman:

But it’s time for leaders to bring people together in our community and say, “We all want the same things. We want to live in a place that is safe and healthy for our kids. We want to be able to go to work and not be afraid of getting pulled over by a police officer and being treated unfairly or harmed, or even killed because of the color of our skin. We have to acknowledge where there is racism in this country, and we have to start moving towards fixing it and doing something about it and not turn a blind eye.” And also not talk about one side versus the other in these extreme ways, which isn’t true. I mean, I’ve kind of been around all of it at this point. I’m a social worker. We are trained to look at things holistically. We’re trained to bring people together to solve problems and that’s what I’m going to do in Congress.

Chris Bowling:

Got you. Definitely. And off of subject of leadership, just to kind of move on to the coronavirus and everything going on in America. So when I wrote this question, we were at 8 million people infected and 210,000 Americans that were dead, I believe. I’m not sure what the numbers are now, but I’m sure that it’s another kind of intangible number to throw out there. But anyway, especially here in Nebraska, in the Midwest, we’re seeing cases that are higher than ever. We’re seeing more people hospitalized, we’re seeing more deaths and yet we’re not really seeing a equal response in terms of rolling back on directed health measures or maybe instituting more mask mandates, when we have a mass mandate here in Omaha. But I don’t even know if Lincoln still does or not.

Chris Bowling:

But anyway, all of that aside, I guess I’m just curious if you were elected to Congress, what would you do on your first day? What would your role, and stopping the spread of coronavirus be?

Kara Eastman:

Well, that is my priority. It has to be for anybody who’s running to get our economy back on track, to get people back to work, back to work safely, get kids back in school, but this has to be done with a plan. And right now, Donald Trump and Donald Bagan have no plan. My opponent actually has an ad up on TV where he mocks mask wearing. And we know that it is effective in terms of preventing the transmittal of this virus. Rates are skyrocketing in our community. And in the beginning, I actually praised Pete Ricketts in the beginning of this ’cause we were doing well, it’s become a disaster. And now he’s tightening up things a little bit. What happens, the weather’s starting to break, it’s going to be really challenging. And I drive by restaurants and bars all the time that are packed with people inside not wearing masks.

Kara Eastman:

What kind of model are we setting for kids, for people in general? As leaders in this community, as leaders of the country, we should be modeling good behavior. We should have a plan. We should have universal testing, contact tracing, mask mandates, proper PPE for people. And we also need to get money into people’s hands, people who have lost their jobs, and now lost their healthcare, people who are facing potential evictions at the end of this year, landlords who don’t know what to do, small businesses that are really struggling. It’s projected that 85% of local independent restaurants are going to go under. And my opponent just voted against the Heroes Act, that would have brought a lot of resources into Omaha and into the district. We need leaders who are actually going to do something about this pandemic, because it is not going away without leadership.

Chris Bowling:

Yeah, definitely. I guess I’m wondering if you were to be elected to Congress, I mean, do you feel what you’d be focused on doing would just be sort of retroactively trying to fix what hasn’t been done, or do you feel there are things that you could still do at this point that are proactive about this , the coronavirus?

Kara Eastman:

Both. Absolutely both. I mean, there’s damage that’s been done that we have to undo and we have to prevent anybody else from dying. And at the rate we’re going, that’s not what’s happening. So saving human lives, saving our economy, saving businesses, saving families that has to be priority one, but we also need to look to the future. We know from the science that there’s the potential for another pandemic that could come at some point, we have to be prepared for that. And unlike my opponent, whose first line of action was to vote to protect smash manufacturers from liability issues, I want to start preparing us. We have the expertise locally at Nebraska Medicine to actually implement things about pandemic response.

Kara Eastman:

And now we have a little bit more information, right? We know a little bit more how to do this better, but we could have planned so much better for this. This many lives did not have to be lost. I mean, at this point, I think we’ve seen it’s about 600 Nebraskans that have lost their lives, over 50,000 that have gotten the virus. And again, with the way the weather’s turning, I’m just so worried about the indoor events that continue to happen. My opponent has been attending indoor events and then wants to have a debate with me in person and has criticized us for not attending in-person events. We’re not going to be a part of a super spreader event that would endanger my team, myself, my family, my husband has asthma. This is real stuff. And we need leaders to stand up and actually fight for us right now.

Chris Bowling:

Yeah, definitely. And then I also, just to kind of go back to the sort of bridging of the gaps, I guess we could look at this locally or nationally. I mean so locally, I think it was last week some doctors from UNMC and Nebraska Medicine basically kind of came out and begged the public and elected officials to take the rise in cases that’s happening right now seriously, to reevaluate directed health measures, to say that we are in a crisis right now and we’re not acting like it. Or if you look nationally I mean, I don’t really know where to start. I mean, you see Donald Trump talking bad on Dr. Fowchee all the time, or there’s just a lot of examples.

Chris Bowling:

But at any rate that’s kind of another sort of separation that I feel we’re having right now is a separation between listening to science and sort of wanting to I guess, I have to choose my words carefully, but just sort of wanting that sort of personal freedom, being able to kind of do whatever because you’re okay so you think what’s best for you sort of thing. So, and obviously I saw an ad the other day where Joe Biden says, “I want to get us toward a national mask mandate,” and that would upset a lot of people. I mean, just in Michigan, people were trying to kidnap the Governor of Michigan. So all of that to say, I’m just curious how you feel we could bridge that divide? What role as a Congresswoman you think you could bring to that conversation?

Kara Eastman:

Well, this should never have been politicized. So I would be working with the entire Nebraska delegation with this unicameral, with leadership at all levels to actually start moving towards a plan for Nebraska that would work. Work in preventing lives from being lost, work in preventing people from getting this disease. I would have opened pandemic response offices throughout the district because people have been reaching out to us asking if they should be wearing masks, where they could go to get food because they’ve lost their job and lost their income. How we can help them navigate their PPP loans. They’re reaching out to me, I’m a candidate, I’m not in Congress, and they’re reaching out to me because their congressperson is not getting back to them. It’s awful. It’s absolutely awful. And we need to do something about it.

Chris Bowling:

Definitely, definitely. Well, I guess staying on the topic of sort of a pandemic and going into healthcare, I mean, obviously healthcare has been a very central issue for you, going back to even your last campaign. And so I just kind of wondered if you could talk a little bit about I mean, obviously we’ve seen a slow rollout of Medicare, I believe, or Medicaid. I always get them mixed up in my head, but that’s embarrassing. But anyway, we’ve seen a slow roll out of it here in the United States, and not in the United States, in Nebraska and across the United States it’s been a very charged issue for the last, going back to the 2016 cycle is when I feel it really sort of getting some notoriety. So, anyway, I just wondered if you could talk a little bit about your approach to health insurance, how we need to expand it, and all that.

Kara Eastman:

Sure. Well, keep in mind, the voters of Nebraska voted to expand Medicaid in 2018 and the governor has blocked it until recently. Although I just saw an article today that it’s not really even moving forward. People want expanded healthcare. There’s been so much misinformation put out there. And frankly, it’s been sponsored by the pharmaceutical companies, and the health insurance industry, and the Republican party who don’t want to move forward. So they’re putting out speaking points, they’re putting out misinformation. One of the things that my opponent likes to say is, “With my plans 180 million people would lose their health care.” Well, I support something called healthcare for all. That in no way would be that people would lose their healthcare. But he voted five times to repeal the Affordable Care Act or Obamacare. He voted, he was notorious for laughing and not just voting yes, but hell yes to take away healthcare.

Kara Eastman:

And now he’s kind of changed his tune a little bit on this and saying that he supports it, but Donald Trump last night on the debate stage said he would take away Obamacare, that he wants to do away with it. My opponent has voted 93% of the time with Donald Trump. He’s lockstep with Trump. He’s a rubber stamp for him. He is going to take our way or healthcare. And even in the middle of this pandemic, he voted against expanding healthcare. He voted to gut protections for pre-existing conditions, COVID will be a preexisting condition. And he voted against lowering prescription costs. I think most of the voters in the district know that I’m running because of my mother’s own outrageous prescription costs. I don’t want anybody to have to go through what she did. Nobody shouldn’t have to choose between having their life saved and taking the medication they need.

Kara Eastman:

And I talked to people around the district who are rationing their medication because they can’t afford it or foregoing medical treatment when they need it because they cannot afford it. And frankly, there’s a better way to do this. I believe in a system where people have freedom, freedom to choose their provider, where they have choice of who they go to. We don’t have that right now. You have the whole in network out of network thing. There’s a way to do this, where we save the federal government money and save money for people who are absolutely drowning right now in copays, premiums, deductibles out-of-pocket costs. There’s a way to make sure that small businesses are able to succeed, that people can start a small business and not have to worry about providing healthcare.

Kara Eastman:

At Omaha Healthy Kids I had to raise the money to provide healthcare for my employees, and it was the right thing to do, but it’s expensive. And every year our premiums were going up, up, up up. From 2006 before Obamacare started every year. And then you come back and say, okay, what’s the choice here. Either I have to raise the deductible or provide a lower quality plan. None of these decisions are good decisions to make. And frankly, as a nonprofit, I shouldn’t have been in the health insurance business in the first place. I should be doing my business, which was helping save children’s lives. This is a system that can be fixed. I want to go to Congress and I want to work on our broken healthcare system, just like Joe Biden does. And we have a little bit of a difference of opinion on how we get there, but that’s what we’re going to do is work together to solve this problem.

Chris Bowling:

Right. Definitely. I’m trying to go and ask the next question. I guess, and you talk about bipartisan solutions and I guess, attacking these issues that are not inherently political and it should through your solutions, you’re finding the best solution for everybody. But I guess, you’re using, when you talk about a broken healthcare system or Medicare for all, things like that, it does get tied up in political kind of speak and just preconceived notions that people have about things. So I guess I’m just wondering how you would navigate obtaining these solutions that you feel would benefit everybody when people have made up their mind about, when you say one thing or whatever that you’re just coming from the far left or you’re just a partisan. I mean, how do you navigate that?

Kara Eastman:

Well, it’s interesting, right? Because I’m always very careful about the words, Medicare for all, because it means different things to different people. For some people it’s a particular Bill, for other people it’s a concept, for other people it’s single payer or universal healthcare. One of the things people say is, “Well, there were problems with our Medicare system right now. Why would we want to provide that to everybody?” Well, the bill that I like HR1384 actually fixes our current Medicare system. So I try to be careful about that and really talk about what it means and the values behind it that I believe that healthcare is a human right, and the country with the largest economy we can afford for everybody to have healthcare.

Kara Eastman:

But when it comes to other, just issues in general this is where I think it’s kind of funny. The vast majority of Americans support the policies that I believe in. The majority of Americans believe that we need to raise the minimum wage and that people should earn a livable wage. They believe that we need to address climate change. They believe in common sense, gun safety. 89% of Americans support violent criminal history checks for guns and without violating people’s second amendment rights. The vast majority of even Nebraskans, right, support Robby Wade and support a woman’s rights to make medical choices for herself. These are not radical ideas. Seven out of 10 Americans support single payer healthcare. So these are not radical by any means. They’re actually right in the middle of where the majority of Americans are and they save money.

Kara Eastman:

It’s amazing that the Republican party, which was once the party of fiscal responsibility has now become the party of giving government handouts to the very wealthy and large corporations. The tax bill that my opponent supported, the Donald Trump Tax Bill, results in 83% of the benefit ultimately going to the top 1% of this country. That is an obvious handout to the wealthy at the expense of the rest of us. We need middle-class tax cuts. We don’t need people earning $400,000 a year and more having tax cuts. And frankly, no one’s saying do more, we’re just saying pay your fair share. We know that large corporations often pay nothing in taxes, there are fortune 500 companies that pay nothing. We know that Donald Trump himself has had years where he hasn’t paid taxes. We need to change this system, and the majority of Americans support of wealth tax.

Chris Bowling:

Yeah, definitely. Moving on to the economy, I mean, we already kind of talked about this a little bit. But I think it was last week or so the head of the federal reserve came out and said, our economy is not going to get back on track until we figure out the coronavirus. But kind of like you said, we’re at a point right now where we don’t have it under control. And so, I guess I’m just curious, I mean, we kind of talked about coronavirus, controlling the spread of that, what you do with that, but I guess just as far as economic stimulus what we can do for people, the average American we’re putting money in their pockets or different small businesses things like that. I mean, what would you do differently that hasn’t already been done in that respect?

Kara Eastman:

Well, originally when the Cares Act, the First Stimulus Bill was being crafted they were crafting it to help large corporations first. So within that the LA Lakers got money. Trump hotels got money. I don’t think either of them needed it, but we know that single moms in our district did and that small businesses, mom and pop shops in our district did. So I will always be an advocate for helping the people who need it the most first. So we need to flip those models. But if we look at what needs to happen in the future, as I said before, we have to get cash into people’s hands.

Kara Eastman:

And I actually had the opportunity, the honor of talking with Andrew Yang about this and said together we support having universal basic income during this pandemic, because we are going to need to get money in people’s hands. A $1,200 cheque one time, doesn’t go very far, especially for people who are having to make mortgage payments or rent payments, and they lost their jobs. So we really have to move forward. And now, I mean, Congress is saying that they’re not going to get to this before the election, that they don’t know that they’ll get to it by the end of the year. Who are they working for? I mean, this is where I’m critical of both parties. They should not be allowed to take a break until they actually help Americans.

Chris Bowling:

Yeah. I mean, do you feel the sort of health situation that we’re in right now, as far as the pandemic, the economic situation, I mean, where I can drive down Leavenworth street and I see people lined up to get a food pantry and we’re now in October. I mean, how much of this do you feel was avoidable? Do you think that we could have been in a place now where I’m not seeing that, where we can go into bars or whatever? Again, I mean, I’m just curious, how much of this is just naturally going to happen versus how much was avoidable?

Kara Eastman:

Well, we knew that this was coming and at the highest level of leadership, he knew it was coming. And has said that he downplayed it. We should have been prepared. And there are countries in Europe that have done better than we have. There are countries around the world that have done a lot better than we have. And in the United States, where we have the brilliance and the technology, and the resources, and the knowledge base, and the science we could have done this so much better. But this is an absolute failure in leadership at the highest level of government, and it trickles down to the Congressional representative for the 2nd district of Nebraska.

Chris Bowling:

I don’t know what that is. Okay. I did want to kind of talk about some of the comments that you’ve made about your opponent, Congressman Bacon, you’ve said even in this interview that he’s a rubber stamp for the president and that he’s kind of in the president’s pocket. When you look at like fivethirtyeight.com, they keep a tracking of how often people vote with the president. And he’s actually 210th on the list of Congress people, he’s more close to the middle than he is to the… So I guess I’m just curious, I mean, knowing that then why is he in your eyes such a partisan figure? I guess, what would you do to not be as partisan?

Kara Eastman:

Well, you and I have seen different things on fivethirtyeight, because I can pull it up right now and show you that according to fivethirtyeight, he votes with the president and with this party 93% of the time. That is not minimal by any means. He has done a great job of touting his bipartisanship, and he uses an index that doesn’t measure bipartisanship. It’s the one he talks about from Georgetown, the Luger Index. So that is about sponsorship and co-sponsorship of bills. So as a member of Congress, I could co-sponsor every bill and then say I’m bi-partisan, but then when it comes down to the votes, that’s where partisanship happens. And when you vote 93% of the time with your own party, that is not bipartisanship.

Chris Bowling:

Sure. I mean, I guess, well, with that number, I mean, obviously 93% is closer to a 100% than it is to 50%. But it’s in the realm of Republican Congress members and the realm of Republican representatives, it’s more close to the middle then. So, I mean, obviously we have a skewed thing here where Republicans are voting more with the president more often. I mean, I guess, does that make sense? He’s more toward the middle, even though he’s in relative to his his colleagues.

Chris Bowling:

So I guess I’m just wondering how you would avoid that trapping, we wouldn’t be back here, X amount of years later saying, “Oh, well, Kara Eastman is just a partisan ’cause she’s voting with Democrats like 92% of the time?” Even if you’re really trying to be with the Republicans a little bit too and trying to work across the aisle. So I don’t know if that question makes sense?

Kara Eastman:

It does. But you need to fact check what you’re saying, because I don’t think you’re correct about where he falls within the partisan. Because I’ve talked to members of Congress who work with their Republican colleagues a lot more than they work with him. And they told me that they could not pick him out of a lineup. But I think that where I would differ, I mean, I’ve started off by being an independent voice. I wasn’t recruited to run for this position. I haven’t always been embraced by my own party, let alone the other one. And I am pledging to be an independent voice for Nebraskans.

Kara Eastman:

So by rejecting corporate PAC money, I’ve signaled to people already that I’m not necessarily a lockstep with my party. Only 60 members of Congress have rejected corporate PAC money. That’s not the majority of Democrats. There are times where I’ve disagreed with my party. I do with what’s happening right now. I have with the coronavirus response. So I’m not looking to go to Congress to represent anyone there or to be part of something there. I’m going to certainly to work with people that get stuff done, but get stuff done for the district.

Chris Bowling:

Sure. I mean, leading off of that, I mean, obviously the Democratic Party and the state of Democratic party politics in Nebraska, isn’t a bit of an upswing right now. I mean, there’s quite a lot of just fissure between people who are trying to promote more progressive politics, people that are trying to stay a little bit more centrist. What it means to be a Democrat, the average Democrat in East Omaha versus West Omaha might be kind of different. And so I guess I’m just curious, in that sort of state makeup, where you feel you land, and if you were to elected what does it mean as a Congressional Democratic leader, what would it mean for you to be in that role?

Kara Eastman:

So I have a different perspective on this because what I’m seeing and what I’m experiencing is that we’re building a broad coalition and that we are a big tent party. And that means that we include Democrats, independence and disenchanted Republicans, people who are frustrated with the direction that the country is going and with the leadership of this country. So I’m so proud to be endorsed by Barack Obama, Joe Biden, Kamala Harris, John Delaney, Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Kiersten Gillibrand, Andrew Yang, Marianne Williamson, the gamut of people who ran for president. I’m proud to be endorsed locally by John Cavanaugh, Bob Carey, Mike Fahy, Jim Suttle, and Republican state Senator John McAllister. So we have a broad coalition of support right now who are more concerned about moving the country forward than partisan politics.

Chris Bowling:

And I guess not to be the devil’s advocate, but you didn’t get the support of Brad Ashford though, your former opponent, former Congressional members. So, I mean, I guess I wonder if that means anything to you that you see something like that, or you see someone like Don Klein who leaves the Democratic party over what the Democratic party said about him, that he was perpetuating white supremacy. I mean, I just wonder if that really factors into any of this at all?

Kara Eastman:

Well, there is always these individual outliers, right? So I beat Brad Ashford in the primary in 2018, I wasn’t necessarily predicted to do that. I just beat his wife by a considerable margin in the primary this year in 2020 and Brad has been a Republican for most of his life. So it’s not that surprising that he would endorse a Republican.

Chris Bowling:

Sure. And then just to wrap things up. I just wonder if you have a last sort of elevator pitch, just why you should be the congressional [inaudible 00:43:03] representative for our district. Why people should vote for you.

Kara Eastman:

I have worked my entire career helping people and in various ways and that also includes in working on policy, working as an elected official at Metropolitan Community College on the board of governors and working to solve problems in communities and doing that in a collective way and in a way that actually ends up saving money. I think that that’s incredibly important to point out that I’m the actual fiscal conservative in this race. Because I want to look at ways that we can prove return on investment within the government, ways that we can have transparency. Because the taxpayers deserve that. People usually don’t mind paying taxes if they feel like it’s going to the right place, if it’s not being wasted and if people are all paying their fair share.

Kara Eastman:

I am an independent voice. I’m ready to stand up and say to people in the district, I’m going to fight for them. I’m going to make sure that Nebraska has a place in this country, because right now we often get considered fly over country. I’ve seen that now in running for Congress for four years, that Nebraska isn’t always prioritized. But under my leadership, we will be. And I’m going to do politics differently. I will be accessible to people. I already am. I have people contact me through social media, I call them. Even people who disagree with me on stuff. We have difficult conversations. And in the majority of cases, I’m actually able to convince somebody to vote for me because I don’t take corporate PAC money because I’m pledging to prioritize the needs of Nebraskans over the needs of the very, very wealthy and large corporations that have way too much control. That’s not to say that we won’t all work together, but I think Nebraskans deserve to have that voice first.

Kara Eastman:

They will have an accessible Congress person. I would be honored to be the first woman elected to serve this district because frankly, my opponent has been bad for women. He voted against the Violence Against Women Act to reauthorize it. He voted against [inaudible 00:45:00]. He was a hundred percent against a woman’s right to choose. And he voted for a Republican Tax Bill that has given a clear handout to the wealthy. He benefits from those. He takes hundreds of thousands of dollars from insurance companies, from pharmaceutical companies and that has passed legislation for them. Voting, not just yes, but hell yes, to take away your healthcare. It is time that we have fair representation in Nebraska. It is time that we have a voice for everyone or for somebody who’s been fighting for racial, social and environmental justice her whole career. And I’m pledging to be that person and that representative and would love to have everyone support.

Chris Bowling:

Got you. Cool. Well, is there anything else I haven’t asked you about, anything you’d like to touch on before we get off the call?

Kara Eastman:

I don’t think so.

Chris Bowling:

Okay. Cool. Well, thank you so much again for taking so much time to answer my questions and yeah, I really appreciate you taking this time to talk with me.

Kara Eastman:

Absolutely. Anytime, take care.

Chris Bowling:

Thank you.

 


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