Politics

Ashford Shows Up Outside Paul Ryan Fundraiser for GOP Candidate

Nebraska Democrat has been downplaying party ID in conservative district

Nebraska Rep. Brad Ashford represents a district won by Mitt Romney in 2012. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Speaker Paul D. Ryan was in Omaha Wednesday, where he endorsed Republican Don Bacon in Nebraska's competitive 2nd District. 

But Bacon wasn't the only one who wanted some of Ryan's attention. Democratic Rep. Brad Ashford sent a letter to Ryan Wednesday welcoming him to the district and inviting him to meet.

“I am looking forward to the opportunity to share the great work happening in Nebraska with my colleague, Speaker Ryan,” Ashford said. 

[Ryan to Cover 12 States Campaigning for House Candidates in August]

Ashford then showed up to the downtown location where Ryan attended a fundraiser for Bacon, Omaha's CBS affiliate KMTV reported. Ashford spoke to the press, even having an informal, impromptu debate with Bacon on the street. Ryan had already left.

Ashford said he'd been coming from the gym and hadn't known about the fundraiser taking place nearby.

Ashford is running for his second term in a race rated Tilts Democrat by The Rothenberg & Gonzales Political Report/Roll Call. But his district has voted Republican at the presidential level, with Mitt Romney carrying it by 7 points in 2012. That means that Ashford, a onetime Republican and independent, needs to convince voters to split their tickets.

[Chamber of Commerce Endorses Nebraska Democrat]

To that end, he's left his party identification conspicuously absent from his paid advertising. 

"You can accomplish a lot when you don't care which party gets the credit," Ashford says in his most recent TV spot

At a parade earlier this year, Ashford declined to say he was a Democrat when a voter asked him. "Aw, I don't know. Whatever you want me to be," he said

Ashord is one of just a handful of Democrats endorsed by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which traditionally backs Republicans in congressional races.

Bacon took some heat for not publicizing Ryan's visit ahead of the event. Earlier this year, Bacon accused Ashford of trying to hide a private dinner he had with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi. The Ashford campaign said at the time that it was not a fundraiser. 

[Roll Call's 2016 Election Guide: House]

But Bacon touted Ryan's endorsement later on Tuesday. 

“His decision to spend time in Nebraska for my campaign is a real shot in the arm," Bacon said. 

Ryan is hitting the road for GOP recruits this August, making stops in New York's 3rd District, Minnesota's 8th District, and Pennsylvania's 8th District soon.

Following up on their impromptu sidewalk debate, Bacon sent Ashford a letter Thursday reiterating a request to schedule nine debates. 

"It was an unexpected surprise to see you yesterday. Thank you for stopping by my event with Speaker Ryan and it was nice to see you again," Bacon said in the letter. 

 "The part I enjoyed most yesterday was when we got to discuss the issues," Bacon said.

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