Nebraska 1st District Congressman Jeff Fortenberry says he is resigning from office, effective this coming Thursday, March 31, and withdrawing from the May 10 Republican primary – although it’s too late to pull his name from the ballot..
A federal jury in California convicted Fortenberry Thursday of lying to federal authorities about an illegal campaign donation from a foreign national and pressure had been growing on him to step down.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy on Friday urged Fortenberry to resign while Governor Pete Ricketts said he should “do the right thing for his constituents” and leave the office he has held since 2005.
The felony convictions made it virtually impossible for Fortenberry to do any work in Washington because congressional rules bar members from voting on legislation after a felony conviction unless they’re re-elected afterwards.
Fortenberry’s resignation letter to the House said it was his honor to serve with the other members. The letter opened with the poem “Do It Anyway,” that includes the line “What you spend years building, someone could destroy overnight. Build anyway.”
State Senator and former speaker Mike Flood, the likely GOP nominee for the seat, held by Republicans for all but 2 years since 1939, issued a statement thanking Fortenberry for “his many years of honorable service,” wishing him well, and saying “working together, we will keep this seat in Republican hands.”
State Senator Patty Pansing Brooks of Lincoln is the only Democrat running for the season. She issued a statement calling Fortenberry’s conviction “a wake-up call that the district needs a change (and) opens the door for a new approach to serving” the district.
Under Nebraska law, Ricketts must call a special election within 90 days of the seat becoming vacant to fill the vacancy and there’s not enough time to hold that election as part of the primary.
Each party picks one nominee for that election with Flood and Pansing locks to be the choices in the special election and to again face each other in November regardless of the outcome of the first vote.