On Tuesday, Kara Eastman, a Medicare for All supporting self-described “independent voice,” is seeking to unseat her Republican opponent to represent Nebraska’s Second Congressional District. Eastman, who lost narrowly in 2018, is hoping to appeal to voters with a platform that includes reforms to address racial inequality, help farmers, improve housing, and make healthcare affordable and accessible.
Eastman entered the race with firsthand experience with the country’s healthcare system. After her mother was diagnosed with cancer in 2016, the doctor prescribed a $2,500 pill that she could not afford to take. “It sent me on a path of trying to understand how this can happen,” Eastman told The Appeal.
Inspired by her mother, Eastman entered the race to represent Omaha and its surrounding counties. She lost by two percentage points to incumbent Don Bacon and said that the tight election, along with the persisting problems in Nebraska that went unaddressed by Bacon, motivated her to run again in the wake of her mother’s death in 2017. “I decided to run again because the numbers were close and my mom was a fighter and she taught me to never give up,” she said. “We still have the exact same problems. … I believe Nebraskans deserve something better. They deserve an independent voice who’s going to fight for them.”
Healthcare has been a focal point of contention between Eastman and Bacon. If elected, Eastman wants to cut prescription drug prices, ensure that every person has insurance, and improve medical care for seniors. Before running for office, she worked in the nonprofit sector for more than 20 years helping domestic violence survivors, volunteering in a program for people with Lou Gehrig’s disease, and starting an organization that creates safe housing for children and their families. Through this work, Eastman said she’s seen the need for better and more affordable housing, an increase in the minimum wage, and closing the gap between the poor and the rich.
“Traditionally it’s been that owning a home is part of the American dream, working one job to support your family is the American dream, but that’s not true anymore,” she said. “The cost of rent has gone up astronomically and yet the minimum wage has not gone up.”
Eastman, who has been endorsed by more than 50 Black leaders in Omaha, also wants to make investments in Black and Latinx neighborhoods that would support small businesses and demilitarize local police forces across the country, which received $5 billion worth of military equipment from the Defense Department since 1990. Along with those changes, she said she wants to abolish cash bail, decriminalize cannabis, and increase funding for public schools.
Asked about her plan to protect Nebraskans and help them rebuild from the COVID-19 pandemic, Eastman said she supports a plan that will keep the economy running while also keeping people safe. “It is clear that in the U.S. shutting down our economy doesn’t work for people, Americans are not on board with that, but we do need to shut down the virus,” she said. “We should be looking to scientists and the experts and following protocols. We have to get people back to work but we’ve got to get them back to work safely.” On Wednesday, she said she helped plant flags for the more than 600 Nebraskans killed by COVID-19.
Though most of Eastman’s district is urban and suburban, she has a plan to help farmers. In Nebraska, one in four jobs is related to agriculture and Trump’s tariffs have proved to be disastrous, she said, vowing to rescind them. “Farmers don’t want government handouts, they want to be sustainable and want to be able to survive off their family business. A lot of dignity and pride is being taken away from them; with tariffs, flooding, and COVID, they’re just being decimated.”
Leading up to Election Day, Eastman has embraced running a socially distant campaign. She said she knocked on thousands of doors in the 2018 election. But this year, she’s dedicated to hitting the phones, making 150 to 250 calls per day to talk with voters about why they should choose her at the polls. Pointing out that her opponent, Bacon, has voted with Trump and the Republican Party more than 90 percent of the time, Eastman said her job will include an important distinction if she goes to Washington, D.C. “What I’ve seen in running for Congress is that Nebraskans are often overlooked and we need someone who votes not with a party or group but rather someone who stands up for the district.”