Bernie Sanders campaigned for the Democrat challenger in the Omaha, Nebraska, mayoral election, but that candidate came up short on Tuesday.
Apparently the election was, to some degree, supposed to be a referendum on the polices of President Donald Trump and potential anti-Trump backlash.
During a rally in Omaha on April 20 where he endorsed Heath Mello for mayor, Sanders asked the enthusiastic crowd, “are you ready for a political revolution?”
Incumbent Republican Jean Stothert, a former nurse and city councilor, defeated Democrat Mello, however, and will serve a second, four-year term.
According to Powerline, while Nebraska is a solid red state, Democrats outnumber Republicans within the city limits of Omaha, which went for Hillary Clinton over Trump in the presidential vote last November, making the mayoral contest a “national proxy political war.”
Stothert won against the Sanders-backed candidate with 53 percent of the vote in the low-turnout election, and even did well in the areas that Mello represented as a state senator.
An independent socialist who ran for president as a Democrat and waged an unsuccessful primary contest against Hillary Clinton in 2016 whom he later endorsed, Vermont Senator Sanders has been touring red states trying to bring Trump voters over to the Democrat column.
In the U.S. Senate, Sanders caucuses with the Democrats, which means that he votes with them most of the time. On several recent occasions, however, Bernie Sanders blasted the Democratic Party agenda as a failure and out-of-touch with its traditional middle/working class constituency, many of whom went to GOP standard-bearer Trump, a former Democrat and independent, on Election Day.
Mello’s pro-life views also created a rift among Democrats and allied groups and reportedly proved to be a distraction for his campaign, which was not helped when DNC chair Tom Perez indicated that pro-choice on abortion is a litmus test for any candidate in the party.
“His loss was a setback for supporters who argued that the Democratic National Committee and abortion rights groups were wrong to attack the anti-abortion former state senator. It was also another near miss for Democrats fighting in typically Republican territory since Donald Trump’s presidential election victory,” AP observed.
The GOP recently prevailed in the Kansas special House election, with two upcoming House special elections in Georgia and Montana, respectively, pending.
Bernie Sanders has insisted that for the Democrats to be a 50-state party rather than one limited to strongholds on the east and west coasts, they have to be open to those who are pro-life.
In an interview shortly after the Omaha event with the otherwise progressive Heath Mello, Sanders remarked that “If you have a rally in which you have the labor movement and environmentalists and Native Americans and the African American community and the Latino community coming together saying, ‘We want this guy to become our next mayor,’ should I reject going there to Omaha? I don’t think so. It was a great rally, and I hope very much he wins,” CNN reported.
“Stothert…kept the focus on local governance issues as Mello tried to harness anger over President Donald Trump,” the Omaha World-Herald noted. Stothert is the first woman to be elected (and obviously re-elected) mayor of that city.
“On the ground, the campaign focused for the most part on municipal issues such as potholes, public safety, taxes and a proposed streetcar project, although Mr. Mello continued to play the Trump card until the end, blasting the president for the ‘travel ban’ and Obamacare repeal,” the Washington Times similarly explained.
Ironically perhaps, Stothert did not cast a ballot for Trump last November, instead giving John McCain a write-in vote.
University of Nebraska at Omaha political science professor Paul Landow described the Sanders visit on behalf of Heath Mello, which created a lot of buzz at the time, a “colossal mistake,” he told the Omaha World-Herald.
“Why do you bring an ultraliberal into a moderate city to campaign for a moderate candidate for mayor? Bernie Sanders is not going to do anything to expand your base.”
Bernie Sanders, 75, has been a member of Congress since 1991 (and a U.S. senator since 2007) and voted for most of the Obama agenda over the prior eight years. Prior to his election to the U.S. House, Sanders served eight years as the mayor of Burlington, Vermont. Whether he runs for president again in 2020 remains to be seen.
[Featured Image by Charlie Neibergall/AP Images]