Fortenberry resignation means Nebraska’s 1st District will cast votes three times this year

Voters in former Congressman Jeff Fortenberry's district will cast three ballots this year to...
Voters in former Congressman Jeff Fortenberry's district will cast three ballots this year to fill his seat.
Published: Mar. 28, 2022 at 6:03 PM CDT
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - Voters who live in the Congressional district represented by Jeff Fortenberry for the last 18 years will be casting ballots three separate times this year after he resigns his seat.

The first will be in the May primary, then a special election to fill Fortenberry’s seat for the remainder of his term, and then the November election to decide Nebraska’s 1st District Representative for the next term.

Fortenberry’s name will still appear on the primary ballot despite his resignation after a jury convicted him last week of lying to the FBI — it’s too late to change that.

The bigger question is which candidate the political parties will select in the next couple of weeks to appear on the ballot for the special election in June.

Will it be those who have the name recognition at this stage — Patty Pansing Brooks for the Democrats, and Mike Flood for the Republicans?

Since a special election for a vacant Nebraska Congressional seat hasn’t happened before, it’s hard to know what the strategy options are.

UNL Political Science Professor John Hibbing said the indictment and subsequent conviction probably wouldn’t change anything about the dynamic of this longtime “safe seat” for Republicans.

“Do they view this of Fortenberry as generational to the party or is it peculiar to the individual? Obviously, the Democrats are going to show, ‘Look, Republicans — gotcha! This is bad news,’ ” he said.

Congressman Fortenberry’s resignation will be official on Friday. Nebraska law says the governor has 90 days to get the special election in — somewhere in the timeframe of April, May, June. However, it takes 65 days for the Nebraska Secretary of State to get those ballots printed and election commissioners ready for a special election.

If the parties pick their candidates for the special election in April, adding the 65-days window to create the ballots, it’s probable the special election takes place the last week of June — the same week Congressman Fortenberry is slated for sentencing in federal court.

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