Nebraska Democratic Party Chair Blames DNC Head Perez for Losing Omaha Mayoral Race

Democratic National Committee chair Tom Perez / Getty Images
May 12, 2017

The chairwoman of the Nebraska Democratic Party is blaming the leader of the Democratic National Committee for her party's recent election loss in the Omaha mayoral race.

On Tuesday, Democrats were unsuccessful in their efforts to unseat Jean Strothert, the Republican mayor of Omaha, Nebraska. Democratic candidate Heath Mello lost to Strothert, receiving only 46 percent of the vote compared to the incumbent's 53 percent. The race received national attention when DNC chairman Tom Perez and former Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders (I., Vt.) visited Omaha during their "unity tour."

Sanders endorsed Mello and told a crowd of thousands, "Are you ready for a political revolution?"

Shortly after Sanders' endorsement, reports surfaced that Mello voted for anti-abortion legislation when he was a state senator. Pro-abortion groups denounced Sanders for his endorsement, and some progressive organizations withdrew their endorsements for Mello because of his stance on abortion. This reaction sparked debate amongst Democrats about whether their party would welcome pro-life individuals. While party leaders like House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.) and Sanders said the party should welcome people who do not share their view on abortion, Perez released a statement that said all Democrats should be pro-choice.

Nebraska Democratic Party chairwoman Jane Kleeb said Perez's statement excluding pro-life individuals from the Democratic Party was part of the reason why Mello lost.

"It's astounding that our party chairman would say pro-life Democrats are not welcome," Kleeb told the Associated Press when Mello conceded the election.

Mello acknowledged the dynamic of the race changed after the unity tour stopped in Omaha.

"We tried to run a campaign that was inclusive from the beginning regardless of political affiliation, regardless of ideology under the banner of change," Mello said.

The loss was the latest in a series of electoral defeats for Democrats, who have been unable to channel the resistance to President Trump into success at the ballot box.