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Fortenberry prepares opponents on two fronts: Congressional challenger, prosecution

State Sen. Patty Pansing-Brooks announced her candidacy for Rep. Jeff Fortenberry’s congressional seat on Monday.
WOWT 6 News Live at 6:30
Published: Nov. 15, 2021 at 5:02 PM CST
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - Nebraska’s longest-serving congressman now has some competition.

State Sen. Patty Pansing-Brooks announced her candidacy for the state’s 1st Congressional District on Monday. She’ll be taking on incumbent Congressman Jeff Fortenberry in next year’s election.

But Fortenberry has bigger problems.

Right now, his two biggest opponents in next year’s election cycle are Pansing-Brooks and the federal prosecutor in California who says Fortenberry lied to the FBI.

Coincidentally enough, Fortenberry’s trial in Los Angeles starts the same day as the deadline for incumbents to enter the Nebraska Congressional race — something that surely complicates the state’s political landscape.

Lincoln Democrat Pansing-Brooks will have reached her term limits in the Nebraska legislature, so naturally, her next move was to announce her candidacy for Congressman Fortenberry’s seat.

Pansing-Brooks claims she has the ability to make friends on all sides of the aisle.

Fortenberry’s seat was considered a relatively safe one for re-election until his indictment last month. He pleaded not guilty to charges that he lied to the FBI when it came to questions regarding illegal campaign contributions.

“He had a good democratic challenger two years ago and he won comfortably,” said Dr. John Hibbing from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

Dr. Hibbing, a political scientist and professor, has followed and studied Nebraska politics for 40 years. He anticipated Fortenberry would face a Republican challenger in the primary before the court troubles.

But the criminal charges change the entire equation.

“But now with the indictment, it could be more than one person from the right,” Dr. Hibbing said. “I think he would have fought off that challenge in a normal year... with the indictment, that could make it more difficult.”

Fortenberry has represented Nebraska’s 1st Congressional District for the last 18 years. He’s due back in federal court for a hearing next week in Los Angeles.

A campaign spokesperson for Rep. Fortenberry, Chad Kolton, released a statement on Monday: “Jeff Fortenberry has faithfully and effectively served Nebraska and American in Congress and will ask the voters to re-elect him in 2022 to continue that work. The contrast will be very clear: Patty Pansing-Brooks will faithfully advance Joe Biden’s agenda and have to explain a chaotic economy, overrun border, and dangerous foreign policy.”

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