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The Latest: Omaha mayor election a symbol for Democrats

FILE - In this April 14, 2017, file photo, former Nebraska Democratic state Sen. Heath Mello speaks during a mayoral debate against his Republican challenger, incumbent Omaha Mayor Jean Stothert in Omaha, Neb., ahead of the May 9, 2017, election. (AP Photo/Nati Harnik, File)

OMAHA, Nebraska (AP) — The Latest on the Omaha mayoral election (all times local):

10:25 p.m.

Democrat Heath Mello has lost his race for Omaha mayor after the anti-abortion, former state senator became a flashpoint for the internal party battle whether differing views should be allowed on reproductive rights.

Moderate Democrats had cast the 37-year-old, Catholic Mello as an independent, next-generation Democrat who can win a top executive office in GOP-heavy Nebraska. He lost Tuesday to first-term incumbent Mayor Jean Stothert, a 63-year-old Republican former nurse and Omaha city council member.

Last month, the midsized municipal race leapt into the national political conversation when the Democratic National Committee added Omaha to its series of rallies around the country in states carried by Republican Donald Trump in the 2016 presidential election.

An abortion rights group assailed the party’s endorsement of Mello. Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez back-tracked, calling on all Democrats to support abortion rights. Moderate and anti-abortion Democrats called Perez’s comments damaging for the party struggling to gain traction.

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7:15 p.m.

Voters in Omaha are not just deciding the city’s mayor Tuesday, but whether a Democrat who opposes abortion rights can give the party some hope in the conservative heartland.

Democrats around the country have focused on their party’s candidate Heath Mello, some looking to the 37-year-old former state senator as an independent future party leader and others shaking their heads at his anti-abortion record.

In that way, the race in this mid-sized Midwestern city has become a symbol for the out-of-power party’s struggle for the way forward after crushing defeat across the country last year.

Mello faces incumbent Republican Jean Stothert, a 63-year-old Republican elected in 2013.

Polls in Omaha close at 8 p.m. local time.

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