Heath Mello, the Omaha, Nebraska, Democrat whose support for anti-choice measures sparked a debate about the values of the Democratic Party, lost his mayoral bid Tuesday to unseat Republican incumbent Jean Stothert.
The latest unofficial election results show Stothert winning with 53 percent of the nearly 97,000 total votes cast. Mello trailed with around 46.5 percent of the vote.
Dave Boomer, Stothert’s campaign manager, told the Huffington Post in a Tuesday interview that the highly visible controversy surrounding Mello’s position on abortion rights “hurt him” in the race.
“The pro-life groups got engaged and were doing mailings to their members calling into question his commitment to being pro-life,” said Boomer. “He did that to himself. We didn’t really have to do too much on that.”
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Mello gained the national spotlight in April after news broke that he would be featured alongside Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Democratic National Committee (DNC) Vice Chair Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN) at a rally meant to be a stop on the Democrats’ national unity tour.
Mello’s anti-choice record led to sharp rebuke from reproductive rights advocates who questioned why the Democratic Party was working with the candidate. Mello personally opposes abortion rights and has co-sponsored an ultrasound restriction and a 20-week abortion ban during his time in the state legislature.
In a statement after his record began garnering attention, Mello said he “would never do anything to restrict access to reproductive health care,” should he be elected mayor.
Criticism of the party for elevating Mello led DNC Chair Tom Perez to call on party members to “support a woman’s right to make her own choices about her body and her health.”
During his concession speech, “Mello hinted at the Democratic Party discord that surrounded the Sanders appearance as Mello’s anti-abortion stance came under attack,” according to the Omaha World-Herald.
Stothert also opposes abortion rights.