GAC Summary: Congressional District 2

Congressman Don Bacon (Incumbent)

Congressman Don Bacon declined our invitation for an interview.

Senator Tony Vargas

GAC members with Senator Tony Vargas

Senator Tony Vargas has been a State Senator for the last 6 years, and is running for the 2nd Congressional District of Nebraska. He is a former teacher and a board member of the Nebraska State Educators Association. During his time as a teacher, he witnessed his community’s issues firsthand, which led him to his career in politics. In his career in the Senate, he states he has advocated for workers’ rights, and has helped to expand state employee benefits in the Appropriations Committee. He states he has been able to work across the aisle and push the envelope, and wants to be a representative for the working family. He states that he understands that Republican administrations aren’t always pro-worker, but he wants to change that because he “wouldn’t be in this position if it weren’t for the opportunities unions have given” him.

Senator Vargas states that he has interacted with various public programs and services in his career in the state senate. He states that his experience on the Appropriations Committee exposed him to the diversity of issues public workers face. When asked what services he would like to see added to or expanded upon, Senator Vargas stated, “as many as possible.” He further states that he would like to see more public classifications added.

Senator Vargas states that he will work to ensure public services and programs are fully funded, and that the state “can’t expect more from a system if it’s not investing in the people who work in it.”

When asked how federal infrastructure funding should be allocated, Senator Vargas states that hard infrastructure projects and working families should be prioritized. He states that he doesn’t want to see any contracting out of state projects, and he wants the funding to go into federal wages.

Senator Vargas opposes the privatization or contracting out of state services. Moreover, he states that he needs to “see details and proof that workers are valued” when approaching public/private partnerships.

Senator Vargas supports the right of Nebraska State employees to unionize. Furthermore, he supports ensuring state employee wages are greater than inflation, especially to improve retention rates. He also supports paid parental leave, and states that we are “far behind as a country” in parental leave. He further states that lack of paid parental leave impacts healthcare and personal opportunities for working families.

To fill vacancies and end agency turnover, Senator Vargas states that increasing pay is a minimum. He states that pay is the only way to keep people in Nebraska and working for the state. Moreover, he states that support in the workplace needs to be improved, as well as HR structure to provide better protection.

When asked what he thought a reasonable wage is for state employees, Senator Vargas states that he would like to see data from communities on cost of living, but would like to see 15 dollars an hour as a parameter. Moreover, he states that a structure for advancing pay is important. 

Senator Vargas states that he will get things done with Republicans the way he did in the legislature. He states that he doesn’t hide his beliefs or affiliation, but doesn’t let it define him. He further states that he doesn’t utilize negative or generalized messaging, and says things to peoples faces, rather than indirectly. 

When asked what makes him the best candidate, Senator Vargas states that his opponent has done positive things, but he disagrees with his policies on privatization. Moreover, he states that the “country gets better when we elect leaders that don’t think in black and white.” Senator Vargas prides himself in being able to learn and make informed decisions, and he believes he will take this to Congress. He is willing to work across the aisle to get things done, and wants to push his colleagues to think differently. His record on property tax relief and history of fighting for working families shows his dedication to a variety of issues.

Senator Vargas believes he will win the election through focusing on people and talking face-to-face. He states that his endorsement by the AFL-CIO helps his grassroots campaign, and his focus on union support will help win over voters.