Lincoln, NE – There were already two elections in 2022 for Nebraska voters – a primary election on May 10th and a general (mid-term) election in November. But last Thursday’s announcement by First District Congressman Jeff Fortenberry that he will step down from his seat in the U.S. House of Representatives this week will add yet another election this year for voters in that district. So how will the process play out?
The first step will be Governor Pete Ricketts calling for a Special Election. That will likely occur after Thursday, March 31st when Fortenberry is officially out of office. At that point the spotlight will swing over to the Executive Committees of the State’s political parties. It will be their job to nominate an individual to run in the Special Election that will likely be held before the end of June (to be within the 90-day envelope triggered by Fortenberry’s resignation). The winner of that Special Election will then serve out the remaining months of Fortenberry’s two-year term, until early January, 2023.
Best guesses among political observers are that State Sen. Mike Flood of Norfolk, who was already challenging Fortenberry in the GOP primary and who has picked up the endorsements of two of the state’s Republican heavyweights, Gov. Ricketts and former Gov. Dave Heineman, will be the Republican nominee. Flood has already said he will be seeking the nomination. However, there are still three other candidates on the Republican primary ballot that could still be contenders – Curtis Huffman of La Vista, Thireena Connely of Palmyra and John Glen Weaver of Omaha.
Observers also agree that Flood’s opponent on the Democrat ticket could be State Sen. Patty Pansing Brooks of Lincoln. She is being challenged in the Democrat primary by Jazari Zakaria of Lincoln, a University of Nebraska-Lincoln student who could also be a contender in the Special Election nominating process.
Adding to voter confusion will be the fact that Jeff Fortenberry will still be on the May 10th primary ballot because the resignation came too late to have his name removed. Voters who select Fortenberry will be wasting their vote. So voters will be encouraged to vote for one of the other four Republican primary candidates.
The Special Election also sports another possible scenario – that the winner of the Special Election is not the winner of the May 10th primary or the ensuing general election in November. You can move the names of the various candidates around in your head and come up with several possible outcomes. And while unlikely – it’s still possible.
Nebraska’s First Congressional District has been consistently Republican since 1965. But Fortenberry’s conviction could rally a Democratic turnout to reverse that trend.