Jessica McClure is at work in her space on the second floor at Turbine Flats on Y Street, where a warren of small and start-up businesses occupy offices that spread into an entrepreneurial beehive.
McClure's task is not unlike a start-up as she attempts to revive Democratic fortunes in eastern Nebraska's 1st Congressional District, challenging a seven-term Republican congressman in a district that hasn't elected a Democrat in 54 years.
Campaign finance reports help define the challenge: McClure has raised about $57,000 for her campaign; Republican Jeff Fortenberry had almost $1.9 million in cash on hand in his campaign war chest at the end of September and will have most of it still there untouched after Election Day.
McClure's cash on hand entering October totaled $1,142.77.
McClure understands the challenge, but she says it needs to be pursued.
"We can't win if we don't try," she said.
For McClure, the decision to try was also personal.
"I didn't like Fortenberry's vote attempting to end ACA protections for people with pre-existing conditions," she said, pointing to Republican efforts in the House to repeal the Affordable Care Act.
"There's not a plan in place for consumer protections," she said.
As the mother of a 5-year-old daughter diagnosed with eosinophilic esophagitis, an inflammatory condition of the esophagus, McClure said she recognizes that her child is "forever labeled with a pre-existing condition and I am fearful for her future."
An analytical chemist and law school graduate, McClure entered the Democratic primary contest against Dennis Crawford of Lincoln, a party activist who won the congressional nomination in 2014. And she prevailed in that primary election in May.
McClure quit her job as a regulatory compliance specialist to plunge into the campaign.
As a candidate, she is a listener, McClure said.
And she would listen to the people of the 1st District if she is elected, she said.
"We need to have a discussion," McClure said, in order to have the kind of representation that the people of the 1st District deserve.
"I don't think Congressman Fortenberry is listening to me."
"I really do want to talk to you," McClure declares in the first line of her campaign flier.
"I want to hear about your problems so I can go to Washington, D.C., and take those conversations with me as I craft policy."
While affordable health care, with the goal of universal coverage, sits atop her list of issues, you'll also find strengthening Social Security by altering the payroll cap on earnings up there, along with support for the family farmer that includes opening up the industrial hemp market to family farms.
And she wants to address gun violence that results in mass shootings in the schools along with access to mental health care, support for public education and tax policy that doesn't just focus on "a handout for big companies."
"I'm talking about things I really care about," McClure said.
"I want to help get young women involved. There should be more women in office.
"I'm not a big Trump supporter," she says. "He displays no values. But many people are willing to overlook the awfulness," she said.
McClure says she fully recognizes the steep hill she is attempting to climb.
"We all know what we're up against," she said. "Just being a Democrat is going to hurt me. Some people will not want to hear me."
There's no funding available for TV ads. This will be "a lot of volunteers and some yard signs," she said.
McClure describes herself a "a Nebraska mom who is trying to make a difference."
"I get no national support whatsoever," she said.
"I will point out voting records, but I refuse to do any negative campaigning. I am beholden to no one.
"I just say if you really don't like what's happening in our country, show up and vote."
2018 Voter's Guide
2018 Lincoln Journal Star Voter's Guide — General Election Edition
Your guide to Lincoln-area races that will appear on the Nov. 6, 2018 general election ballot. Click on a race name to view candidates and other information.
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