Election Day 2022: Bacon hangs on to Nebraska’s 2nd Congressional District seat

Close polls put the race in the national spotlight as a potential flip for Democrats
In Nebraska's 2nd Congressional District incumbent Republican Don Bacon and Democratic State Senator Tony Vargas vie for a two-year term.
Published: Nov. 8, 2022 at 1:22 PM CST|Updated: Nov. 8, 2022 at 6:09 PM CST
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - In one of several Congressional races garnering national attention, Nebraska’s 2nd District was a fight to the bitter end.

Republican Rep. Don Bacon won a fourth term serving the Omaha-based 2nd Congressional District, typically Nebraska’s only competitive U.S. House district and one the GOP tried to tighten its hold on through redistricting.

Bacon on Tuesday defeated Democrat Tony Vargas, a state senator from Omaha who touted his experience as a teacher and member of the Omaha school board.

The race was close for much of Election Night. But as of 1:02 a.m. Wednesday, with 312 of 331 precincts in the district fully reporting, the Associated Press called the race for Bacon.

  • Bacon: 51.9% with 105,589 votes
  • Vargas: 48.1% with 97,613 votes

Bacon has held the seat since defeating an incumbent Democrat in 2016 and had to work hard to get re-elected twice before, both times over Democrat Kara Eastman.

The congressman is a retired Air Force brigadier general who has a conservative voting record but was criticized by former President Donald Trump for backing an infrastructure bill Democrats supported.

Republicans were trying desperately to hang on to Nebraska’s 2nd Congressional District; Democrats wanted to flip the state’s only Democratic-leaning district — Joe Biden received an electoral vote from this district in the 2020 presidential election. Since then, Republicans have redrawn the map to include more rural areas in Dist. 2, giving them a small boost.

A hard-fought race in Nebraska’s 2nd Congressional District between GOP incumbent Rep. Don Bacon and Democrat Tony Vargas.

Both sides of the aisle poured millions into this campaign. The race has cost Democrats and Republicans $17 million in total.

Republican incumbent Rep. Don Bacon and Democrat Tony Vargas were both out with their supporters and family on Tuesday morning encouraging residents to vote.

6 News spoke with both candidates today and each emphasized their experience.

“We got a $600 million plan for Eppley; $2 million for UNMC, which is going to be a partnership with the VA for inpatient care,” Bacon said. “And we’ve got over $3 billion to redo our roads, our bridges, rural broadband. So we’ve delivered results for this area, and I’m proud of the work we’ve done.”

But Vargas thinks it’s time for a change.

“I think we need everyday people in office, especially in Congress,” he said. “My parents worked in factories — I was a former public school science teacher, and I’ve been working for six years as a state senator, trying to make people’s lives easier and make sure the middle class is actually growing. And I hope I can earn their vote today because we need everyday people in Congress.”

And although polling has been relatively sparse for this race, Politico changed it from a “leaning Republican” result to a “toss-up.”

Tuesday morning, Bacon was out with campaign volunteers at about 8 a.m. holding up signs at 90th and Dodge streets. He said he planned to go vote himself with his wife after that.

“It’s great to be with so many young folks,” he told 6 News. “You know, we have 75 high school students on our team; 30 college students. And to me, I think it’s a joy to be with our team with all the young folks out here; and of course, we’ve got some of our senior citizens out here, too.”

Vargas started his morning holding signs with supporters at 72nd and Pacific streets before casting his ballot. 6 News caught up with at breakfast.

“This is like the second or third stop now, but we voted this morning — my wife and I,” he said. “And I’m here with my mom and my brother, and it’s a family affair this morning. And we’re just trying to make sure people know we are out and about in the community, trying to get people out to vote today.”

The Associated Press contributed to this story.