Tony Vargas defeated Alisha Shelton in the May 10 Democratic Party primary for Nebraska’s 2nd Congressional District, receiving 72% of the vote to Shelton’s 28%.
Vargas served on the Omaha Board of Education from 2013 to 2016 and won election to Nebraska State Senate District 7 in 2016, defeating John Synowiecki in the general election with 62% of the vote to Synowiecki’s 38%. He was re-elected in 2020, defeating Jorge Sotolongo 78% to 22%. Before taking office, Vargas worked in the nonprofit sector and as a public school teacher. Vargas said he was a bipartisan leader in the state senate and would work with Republicans in Congress. “I’ve served on the Appropriations Committee, passing balanced budgets that also focus on people, on businesses, on our schools, and our healthcare. I’ve worked and chaired our planning committee. I’ve been in leadership in the legislature not because of anything other than the way I lead and the way that I operate,” Vargas said. If Vargas wins the general election, he would be the first Latino Congressman to represent Nebraska.
Shelton worked as a clinical supervisor, program director, and therapist and ran for U.S. Senate in 2020, where she finished third in the Democratic primary behind primary winner Chris Janicek (D) and Angie Philips (D). In a campaign email, Shelton said “we need a leader who will fight for change,” and said she was “an everyday Nebraskan who understands what it is like to try and succeed in an economy that does not work for all of us and navigate a healthcare system that is ridden with red tape.” Shelton also said she was “always going to be for whatever is going to be best for this community, what’s best for Nebraska, and what’s best for Nebraska is someone who can think clearly and level-headed without money dangling in front of them.”
Since 1999, the only Democrat elected to represent Nebraska’s Second Congressional District was Brad Ashford (D), who assumed office in 2015. Ashford defeated incumbent Lee Terry (R), who held the seat from 1999 to 2015, in the 2014 general election with 49% of the vote to Terry’s 46%. Ashford was then defeated 49%-48% in the 2016 general election by the current incumbent, Don Bacon (R). Bacon won the Republican primary in the district.
The Cook Political Report rated the 2022 general election for Nebraska’s 2nd Congressional District as Likely Republican, and both Inside Elections and Sabato’s Crystal Ball rated it Lean Republican.