- Associated Press - Wednesday, November 9, 2016

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) - Republicans followed through on a vow to keep incumbent Democratic Rep. Brad Ashford to one term after seeing GOP challenger Don Bacon win Nebraska’s 2nd Congressional District seat. Now, Bacon says he’s looking to reunite the fractured district.

Ashford, who once unsuccessfully ran as a Republican for the seat in 1994, conceded the race Wednesday after Bacon maintained a narrow lead in the vote. In an emotional concession speech, Ashford said serving in Congress represented a dream come true because he had the opportunity to teach Washington about “the way Nebraskans do things.” His campaign emphasized his willingness to work across party lines as a moderate, just as he had in the officially nonpartisan state Legislature.

“I think that what has been gratifying for me has been the opportunity to represent our values in Washington,” said Ashford, who also pointed to the progress made toward building a new veterans’ hospital in Omaha through a public-private partnership and to securing funding for an infectious disease training program at the University of Nebraska Medical Center during his short tenure.

But Bacon’s campaign and Republican supporters had painted Ashford in political ads as a Democratic Party puppet who most often supported the agenda of former Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, an unpopular figure in the heavily conservative Nebraska.

Bacon, a retired U.S. Air Force brigadier general, ran on a platform of smaller government. During the campaign, Bacon touted his military experience and his time serving at Offutt Air Force Base just outside of Omaha.

The audience at his campaign office victory speech Wednesday afternoon included a bevy of state Republicans - including the Republican unseated by Ashford in 2014, Lee Terry. Bacon received roars of applause for reassuring the crowd that he intended to make cuts to government spending and loosen federal regulations that he says are hindering businesses.

He also signaled a desire to unite divided voters, saying he intends to represent everyone in the district and offering kind words for Ashford.

“He’s an honorable man,” Bacon said of Ashford. “I watched his speech today, and I teared up. I can feel what he was feeling, and I know he’s worked awful hard.”

Bacon’s victory reclaims a seat that Republicans held for 22 years before Ashford was elected in 2014. The race was hard fought from the beginning, with Ashford scrambling to raise money and hold on to the seat.

Libertarian Steven Laird also appeared on the ballot.

___

AP Writer Josh Funk contributed to this report from Omaha, Nebraska.


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