Representative Jeff Fortenberry (NE-01) is currently running a TV ad in which he expressed concern about “cancel culture” and called for civility, respect and thoughtfulness. It’s an effective advertisement if you aren’t familiar with Fortenberry’s record or have amnesia. Republican propaganda depends heavily upon bad memories. It is our duty as Democrats to refresh voter memories.
History doesn’t begin when Fortenberry cuts a slick TV ad funded by out of state, special interest campaign cash. Let’s take a little trip down memory lane and examine Fortenberry’s real record on these matters.
Before the Trump presidency, Fortenberry faced very little scrutiny from the press and the voters. He was widely regarded as a moderate even though he invariably voted with his party bosses and compiled an extreme voting record.
After Fortenberry voted for the infamous Trump Care bill in 2017, he began to face real scrutiny from the voters for the first time in his lengthy and undistinguished career in the House. The Trump Care bill would’ve taken away insurance from 20 million Americans and gutted pre-existing condition protections. This legislation was so bad that Fortenberry and his GOP House colleagues voted to exempt itself from it and to maintain the protections of the Affordable Care Act for themselves.
Protesters gathered at his office and place of business. In the 2018 cycle, Jessica McClure carried Lancaster County and picked up 40% of the vote even though she was out spent by a margin of $645,000 to $77,000. It was the best showing for a Democratic nominee in CD01 since 2006.
Fortenberry did not respond well to the increased criticism his extreme record had generated. During the course of the 2018 campaign, some prankster altered a couple of Fortenberry yard signs by inserting googly eyes and some low brow humor.
In October 2018, UNL professor Ari Kohen “liked” this picture on his Facebook feed. Fortenberry’s office responded with rage. Long time Fortenberry chief of staff Reyn Archer contacted Kohen’s boss and demanded to speak with him over Kohen’s job status with UNL. Kohen took that as a threat to his job and said the following: “He told me they could put this out publicly that I liked vandalism, and essentially, that that would be bad for me. To have people in this position who are ready and willing to abuse their authority like this, to bully people and push people around and threaten to call down retribution over something that maybe hurt somebody’s feelings,” he said, “we’re all poorer if that’s what’s happening in this country.”
Unfortunately, the threat to Kohen’s job wasn’t the end of Fortenberry’s vindictive retaliation. Shortly before the 2018 election, Forteberry filed a complaint with the Lincoln Police Department over the two altered yard signs. This was an over the top reaction by Fortenberry. When I ran for Congress two times, I never filed a report with the police when my yard signs were presumably stolen by over zealous Fortenberry supporters.
After conducting a six month investigation into this episode, the LPD cited a UNL professor for misdemeanor vandalism. The charges were subsequently dropped when Fortenberry failed to show up for the trial. This was also a disturbing incident because Fortenberry once again used the power of his office to punish his political opponents.
The long CD-01 member of Congress’ call for civility and respect is contradicted by his enthusiastic support for Donald Trump. Fortenberry has voted with Trump 95% of the time and wouldn’t criticize Trump’s vile behavior when he asked to do so at a 2017 town hall meeting. Fortenberry even took a pledge to never disagree with the former TV reality star.
It’s obvious that Fortenberry’s latest TV ad is hypocritical and simply dishonest. He is trying mislead the voters in NE-CD01. However, it’s not enough to expose Fortenberry’s failures and lack of accomplishments.
Fortunately for the voters of NE-CD01, State Senator Kate Bolz has mounted a strong challenge. Bolz is the most formidable opponent that Fortenberry has faced since the 2006 cycle when he defeated former lieutenant governor Maxine Moul.
Let me tell why you I’m for Kate. First, let me give you a little background. My brother is intellectually disabled and has lived at the Beatrice State Development Center since 1975. In 2017, the Ricketts Administration proposed budget cuts to that facility. Kate called me herself and gave me a heads up about this proposal and the hearing at the Appropriations Committee on the matter. Several guardians for residents at BSDC and I testified against Ricketts’ proposed cuts. Senator Bolz (and Senator Anna Wishart) came through and stopped these cuts.
The 2018 election results are evidence of Fortenberry fatigue in CD01. The long time Congressman simply obeys Trump and his party bosses in D.C. His vengeful response to his opposition in the 2018 cycle indicates he is genuinely afraid of losing his seat. I expect 2020 to be a good cycle for the Democrats. Trump is an historically unpopular president and the Trump/Fortenberry trade war has devastated Nebraska farmers. This is our time! Let’s repeal and replace Fortenberry! Let’s send Kate Bolz to Washington!