UNO College Democrats host congressional forum


Courtney Sidzyik

Members of the UNO College Democrats stand with candidates from the 2nd congressional District. From left to right: Nate Johnson, Gladys Harrison, Mars Nevada, Morgann Freeman, Sheldon Bale, Ann Ashford and Kara Eastman. Photo by Courtney Sidzyik.

Four democratic candidates from Nebraska’s Second Congressional District gathered for a UNO-sponsored forum to answer questions about policy and action plans on Saturday, Feb. 1 at the Milo Bail Student Center.

The candidates, who are vying to face Rep. Don Bacon, R-Neb., included Kara Eastman, Ann Ashford, Morgann Freeman and Gladys Harrison. Each candidate spoke on social issues including student debt, climate change, healthcare, women’s rights and the criminalization of cannabis.

The candidates had similar opinions, but each expressed different approaches to how they would tackle the hot-button social issues.

The event took place from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. and included time for audience members to ask the candidates questions. The candidates had similar progressive opinions, but each expressed different approaches to how they would tackle the hot-button social issues.

Student debt was one of the main topics of the night. Ashford said federal dollars given to schools should be spent on educational needs and not administrational purposes. One solution to current student debt would be to offer a volunteering program where alumni could reduce their student loans, she said.

All candidates agreed that the separation of children at the border is immoral with Freeman, Ashford and Eastman agreeing they would fight for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) restoration and a better path to citizenship, whereas Harrison discussed safe borders with no action plan for “Dreamers.”

All candidates said they support healthcare reformation and affordability. Harrison said she supports direct primary care and public options while Ashford, Freeman and Eastman fully endorsed Medicare for All.

While many students and local community members in attendance seemed to support Eastman, others were surprised by the strength of the other candidates. Freeman, in particular, stuck out to one freshman from Metropolitan Community College, Eric Gutierrez.

“The only name I knew was Kara Eastman. I looked a little bit into the other three individuals, but I didn’t really know much about them,” Gutierrez said. “Hearing from Morgann Freeman, I really appreciated what she had to say. It was a lot more eye opening than I expected.

Throughout the evening, the candidates displayed a strong sense of party and supported each other by often encouraging each other on stage.

“I am so deeply grateful to be alongside these amazing women in this race, because at the end of the day, on May 12, we are going to have a woman that will win this seat and we will have the first congresswoman to represent this district,” Freeman said.

“No matter who wins the nomination in the primaries on May 12, I’m confident that they will flip that bacon.”

On the success of the event, Lauren Bloomquist, vice president of the Creighton College Democrats, said the event had a positive impact on the community because forums are usually less intimate.

“I think that’s a really good opportunity, especially at a place like UNO that engages young people in the Omaha community,” Bloomquist said.

UNO College Democrats President Mars Nevada and State Federation President Nate Johnson said they were pleased with the event and gave tribute to the committee of students that were able to put their time and effort into making the event successful and equitable. The committee randomized where the candidates sat and the order of the questions in order to help prevent bias or unfairness.

At this time, the UNO College Democrats will not endorse one single candidate until after the primaries. Until then, the UNO College Democrats encourages students to attend a delegate training event on Feb. 18 where students can learn how to become delegates on the county, state and national convention to select their nominee for the democratic party.

“No matter who wins the nomination in the primaries on May 12, I’m confident that they will flip that bacon,” said UNO College Democrats Vice President and forum moderator Sheldon Bale.