Controversial Dem candidate loses Omaha mayoral race

Controversial Dem candidate loses Omaha mayoral race
© Greg Nash

Democrat Heath Mello lost the nationally watched mayoral race in Omaha, Neb., ending a campaign that helped drive a controversy in the Democratic Party over support for anti-abortion candidates.

Omaha Mayor Jean Stothert won reelection Tuesday night, defeating Mello by 7 points, according to the Omaha World-Herald.

“We tried to run a campaign that was inclusive from the beginning regardless of political affiliation, regardless or ideology under the banner of change,” Mello said Tuesday night, according to The Associated Press.

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Mello, who previously supported an anti-abortion measure, became the face of Democrats’ internal debate over whether candidates need to embrace a party’s platform that says they “unequivocally” believe women should have access to “safe and legal” abortion.

Women’s rights groups were furious over the Democratic National Committee (DNC) inviting Mello to appear at a Democratic unity tour event. The nationwide tour aims to rebuild the party after tough losses in the 2016 elections.

Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersOvernight Healthcare: Senate votes to begin ObamaCare repeal debate | McCain returns to vote | GOP floats scaled-down healthcare bill OPINION | Healthcare vote a political death wish for GOP in 2018 Senate parliamentarian: More parts of ObamaCare repeal will need 60 votes MORE (I-Vt.) and DNC Deputy Chairman Rep. Keith Ellison (Minn.) attended the April event with Mello. Sanders defended his support of the Nebraska Democrat, arguing that not all Democratic candidates will share the same views.

Other high-profile Democrats like House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerCharles SchumerCongress can send a powerful message by passing the Israel Anti-Boycott Act OPINION | Dems' ‘new’ agenda? A recycled copy of Trump’s playbook Trump: Why aren't 'beleaguered AG,' investigators looking at Hillary Clinton? MORE (D-N.Y.) made similar remarks in favor of the party supporting Mello.

DNC Chairman Tom Perez initially appeared to back the idea that anyone running for office as a Democrat must support abortion rights and that it is “not negotiable.”

But a DNC official later clarified that Perez “doesn’t believe in litmus tests and never said he doesn't support pro-life candidates.”

Democrats’ loss in the mayoral race comes as the party looks to fan its base’s enthusiasm in several upcoming special House elections, as well as state and local races.