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NEBRASKA EXAMINER: Bacon loses lone GOP primary challenger, gains another in Omaha-area House race

Schultze withdraws from the race for health reasons; Kuehl files to run
Don Bacon
Posted at 1:30 PM, Feb 28, 2022
and last updated 2022-02-28 14:30:49-05

OMAHA, Neb. (Nebraska Examiner) — U.S. Rep. Don Bacon, R-Neb., has lost one challenger in his GOP primary to represent the Omaha area in Congress and gained another: a commercial roofing salesman.

Omaha IT professional Jim Schultze announced plans Saturday to withdraw from Nebraska’s 2nd Congressional District Republican primary race because of health reasons. He formally withdrew from the race Monday, the Nebraska Secretary of State’s Office confirmed.

Schultze told followers of his campaign Facebook page he is facing a degenerative condition that has required eight surgeries in the past four years. He said campaigning might be too much.

“I’ve dealt with pain and medication since then, so when I made the late decision to enter the race for Representative (NE-02), my heart wanted to say ‘yes,'” he wrote. “In the last couple of weeks, with the stress of a full-time job and prepping for a campaign, my body is increasingly telling me ‘no.'”

Schultze made a splash with the collector-class Darth Vader suit he wears to local Star Wars-themed events. His campaign hoped to press Bacon to be more conservative, answering the call of former President Donald Trump for a Bacon challenger.

But Bacon won’t go unchallenged in the May 10 primary election. On Friday, Gretna Republican Steve Kuehl filed to run.

In a public-facing Facebook post, Kuehl, who works for White Castle Roofing, said he understands the challenge of running against Bacon. The three-term congressman has more than $1 million in campaign cash on hand. Kuehl does not.

“Do I think I have a chance of winning? Not really,” Kuehl wrote. “But I do have a few qualities/characteristics that I personally find appealing in others … kindness, being honest, trustworthy, hard working, loyal, unifier, simple, and thankful.”

Kuehl’s post says he’s running because he cares about the country, which he says is broken and divided. He wrote that ordinary people, good people never get “a seat at ‘their’ table.” He described himself as an “absolute nobody and I’m OK with that.”

“America first, always!” he wrote. “The United States should be run like we all run our own house holds. I run my house hold always putting my family’s intentions first and foremost. It doesn’t mean I don’t respect and love other families and individuals, they are just not my family.”

In an interview with the Nebraska Examiner on Monday, Kuehl said he wants his bid to encourage more regular people to consider running.

“It’s important because that’s how you get to choose between different ideas,” Kuehl said. “Who wants to just have the one option?”

His chief criticism of Bacon’s leadership focused on Congress as a whole: He said people in Washington, D.C., move too far from the people who have to live with their decisions.

“If you spend too much money you don’t have, you get inflation,” he said. “And you’ve got to balance your budget, the way we all do.”

Kuehl said he had not seen Trump’s statement seeking someone to challenge Bacon until he decided to get in the race, though he echoed the president’s criticism of Bacon’s vote for the $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill. Bacon was one of 13 House GOP members who supported the bill.

The congressman has defended his vote, saying it will improve local roads, bridges and broadband. On the Democratic side, State Sen. Tony Vargas of Omaha and Alisha Shelton, an Omaha mental health practitioner and former Senate candidate, are competing for the nomination.

Bacon’s campaign manager, Derek Oden, welcomed Kuehl to the race and said in a statement: “Voters in the Second District are giving Don the highest favorables he’s had since first being elected and like the job he’s doing to defend America, keep us the most competitive nation in the world, advocate for our nation’s law enforcement, and protect our freedoms and conservative values.”

Nebraska Examiner is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Nebraska Examiner maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Cate Folsom for questions: Follow Nebraska Examiner on Facebook and Twitter.

RELATED: Bacon draws GOP challenger who moonlights as Darth Vader

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