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Frei concedes loss to Bacon in Nebraska’s 2nd District U.S. House race

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Frei concedes loss to Bacon in Nebraska’s 2nd District U.S. House race

May 17, 2024 | 7:25 pm ET
By Aaron Sanderford
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Frei concedes loss to Bacon in Nebraska’s 2nd District U.S. House race
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Nebraska GOP congressional candidate Dan Frei speaks to supporters at his election night gathering. (Aaron Sanderford/Nebraska Examiner)

OMAHA — Republican U.S. House candidate Dan Frei has conceded his GOP primary loss to 2nd District Rep. Don Bacon, R-Neb.

He did so Friday, hours after the largest batch of remaining votes were counted, increasing Bacon’s margin of victory to 24 percentage points.

Frei concedes loss to Bacon in Nebraska’s 2nd District U.S. House race
U.S. Rep. Don Bacon, R-Neb., talks to a reporter in Omaha on Tuesday during a sign-waving for his campaign. (Aaron Sanderford/Nebraska Examiner)

Bacon won 62%-38%, after adding in Douglas County’s early votes that were returned on Election Day and late votes from other counties. 

Frei had said he wanted to wait until it was clear the race was over. He did not respond to a reporter’s calls or texts Friday.

In a statement his campaign posted on social media at 5 p.m., Frei thanked supporters for their “energy and enthusiasm.”

His statement said his campaign gave a voice to an “obviously significant number of disappointed and disaffected” GOP voters.

He hinted that he might not be done with politics, saying he hoped to “continue to contribute” to the populist GOP movement.

No endorsement yet

Frei told the Examiner on Tuesday night that he had not decided whether he would endorse Bacon and that the two would talk.

He had not called Bacon or his campaign as of Friday evening. 

The Nebraska Republican Party has historically hosted a rally the day after competitive primary races to project unity. No such rally was scheduled this week, however, under the new leadership of the state GOP, which is holding its convention this weekend.

Frei concedes loss to Bacon in Nebraska’s 2nd District U.S. House race
Nebraska Republican Party chairman Dan Welch speaks during a “unity rally” in Lincoln in May 2022. To the right are 1st District Mike Flood, Gov. Pete Ricketts and GOP gubernatorial nominee Jim Pillen. (Aaron Sanderford/Nebraska Examiner)

Frei, a regional sales director for GreatAmerica Financial Services, fared worse in his second bid for Congress than he did in 2014, when he came within six percentage points of U.S. Rep. Lee Terry, R-Neb.

That year, he embraced the tax-and-spending-averse tea party movement. This year, he embraced former President Donald Trump.

The basic points of his argument against Bacon were that the four-term incumbent was insufficiently MAGA and cast bad votes.

Bacon has endorsed Trump three times, albeit later this year than in 2016 and 2020. Trump stayed out of the Nebraska race.

Criticized Bacon’s budget, Ukraine votes

Frei lodged his sharpest criticisms at Bacon’s support for continuing budget resolutions to keep the government open. He also criticized Bacon’s votes for military aid to Ukraine. Bacon led the 55th Wing at Nebraska’s Offutt Air Force Base.

Frei had the support of the new, more populist leadership of the Nebraska GOP, which endorsed him. The state GOP endorsed none of Nebraska’s five congressional incumbents, all Republicans. And none of them sought the state party’s endorsement this year.

Bacon ran on his record, arguing that he is rated as one of the more effective members of Congress. He reminded conservative voters about his previous support for a federal abortion ban and about his politically mixed district. 

He spent most of his time and money preparing for a general election rematch with State Sen. Tony Vargas of Omaha.

Vargas, a Democrat representing South Omaha, lost to Bacon by about three percentage points in 2022.