Election 2022: Abortion, Jan. 6 stances heat up Nebraska’s Dist. 2 Congressional debate

A recording of the Bacon, Vargas debate will air Friday night on 6 News WOWT.
A lot of ground was covered in the hour-long debate. From abortion rights to inflation to legalizing marijuana to climate change.
Published: Oct. 12, 2022 at 7:02 PM CDT|Updated: Oct. 13, 2022 at 12:15 PM CDT
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - Voters in Nebraska’s contentious 2nd Congressional District heard from their candidates in a live, moderated debate at noon Thursday.

Republican Congressman Don Bacon and Democratic State Sen. Tony Vargas and their supporters gathered at the Omaha Press Club for the debate, moderated by 6 News Politics Reporter Brian Mastre. About 200 people were in attendance.

The debate, sponsored by the League of Women Voters of Greater Omaha, spotlights a U.S. House race with national implications that has outside advertising money pouring in at a rate of 3-to-1.

Debate questions covered a lot of political ground, from legalizing marijuana to climate change, the 2 million immigrants crossing the southern border, and how to be a part of the solution when it comes to the cost of everything. But questions about the Jan. 6 Committee — which was in session at the same time as the debate — and abortion brought about the most intense exchanges of the debate.


Bacon said he wanted to know more about the events of Jan. 6, 2021.

“In the end, I want to know why reinforcements were not sent to the Capitol. I want to know who did the pipe bombs,” Bacon said. “In the end, I want to be clear: I opposed the violence that day. I support peaceful protests, but violence is wrong whether it’s from the right or left.”

Vargas said democracy depends on finding out what happened that day.

“We need to know what happened January 6th, and if you don’t support the mission, you don’t support the results, and you’re undermining the validity of what comes out,” he said. “We need to know what happened to preserve our democracy, no matter what.”

This is the first debate between Don Bacon and Tony Vargas.

They also talked about election deniers, those who don’t believe the results of the 2020 presidential election — and there are 300 of them on ballots across the country.

Vargas challenged Bacon about his stance on the insurrection, saying “he’s playing politics by naming politicians rather than answer the questions directly.”

“You serve with these people and can be a better example by holding them accountable,” Vargas said. “And even though you claim to have supported this bi-partisan commission, when it mattered, you voted against the bi-partisan commission.”

But Bacon said he did take a stand against what happened in the attack on the U.S. Capitol.

“In the end, I voted to certify. I denounced the January 6th violence,” he said. “I support peaceful protests. I also denounced the violence in the protests here from two years ago.”


Responses to questions about abortion had the crowd cheering and jeering.

Calling his opponent’s position on the matter “extreme,” Bacon aligned Vargas with the leaders of China and North Korea.

“Roe v. Wade prevented us from going to the 15-week mark. My opponent said he opposes any restrictions — that is essentially abortion on demand until birth,” Bacon said. “Less than 1-in-5 voters support that. It is one of the more extreme positions. It’s aligned with China and North Korea; Kim Jung Un and President Xi and Tony Vargas share the same abortion policy.”

Vargas said he’s been hearing a different perspective from voters.

“This is the reason people don’t like politics, because of things like that,” Vargas said. “I’m glad polling told you something. I’m hearing and listening from families and women in the district. I have a wife and daughter; I want to keep their rights intact. I want to make sure we protect their decisions, and government isn’t doing this type of overreach.”

The debate Thursday afternoon was in front of 200 people at the Omaha Press Club.

The two candidates went back and forth over the issue. Right now, Nebraska has a 22-week ban; Gov. Pete Ricketts wanted it to be 15 weeks, but the issue didn’t have enough support for a special session.

Vargas recognized the issue was key for voters in the upcoming election and addressed his opponent directly on the matter.

“Congressman Bacon, you have been very clear and support a constitutional amendment to ban abortion in this country. That is out of step with Nebraskans,” he said. “This is a defining piece of this campaign. You can’t say you stand up for women when you think you have more say over they do to their bodies.”

Bacon touted his ability to work with others in Congress to reach middle ground on the issue.

“Let’s talk about Sen. Graham’s Bill: It’s 15-week restriction,” he said. “It allows for the life of the mother, and rape and incest. It shows I can work with the middle and get things done.”

Watch the full debate

A recording of the debate will also air on 6 News WOWT at 7 p.m. Friday.

Rep. Don Bacon and State Sen. Tony Vargas are meeting at noon Thursday, Oct. 13, 2022, for a debate at the Omaha Press Club.