How To Beat Indicted Jeff Fortenberry

I prefer members of Congress who aren’t indicted.

The Nebraska political world was rocked by the news that longtime CD01 Representative Jeff Fortenberry had been indicted in federal court for lying to the FBI about some illegal campaign contributions he received. Fortenberry appears to be in a lot of trouble since the prosecution has 50 recordings and 11,600 pages of written communications. Moreover, Fortenberry’s legal team has thrown a Hail Mary pass by attempting to disqualify the prosecutor who has led the investigation.

The scandal enveloping Fortenberry has turned what would normally be a relatively easy re-election into a toss up race. A Republican representative has held CD01 since 1966 but Fortenberry’s indictment makes him ripe for an upset. It’s not unusual for incumbents felled by a scandal to lose what was once a safe seat.

Fortenberry’s legal problems have caused him to draw a top drawer challenger in State Senator Patty Pansing-Brooks. As a state senator, Pansing-Brooks has a lot of name recognition and will be able to raise enough money to run a first rate campaign. There will be a competitive race in Nebraska CD01 in 2022.

The key to defeating Fortenberry is to expose him as the ineffectual back bencher and extremist that he is. The Democrats must also repeatedly attack him over his indictment. Does anybody think the Republicans would not talk about the indictment of a Democratic opponent? I think we all know the answer.

It will be relatively easy to prosecute the case that Fortenberry is a radical outside of the mainstream — even in CD01. Over the years, Fortenberry has slavishly followed his party bosses, the corporate special interests who fund his campaigns and Donald Trump. That has led to a record that should alarm most voters.

The longtime CD01 incumbent has voted numerous times to cut Medicare, throw 20 million people off insurance, end pre-existing condition protections and has voted against minimum wage increases. What’s more, Fortenberry supported the frivolous 2020 Texas election lawsuit aimed at disenfranchising millions of voters and stealing the election for Trump.

Fortenberry doubled down on his radical record when the Republican Study Committee — of which Fortenberry and Bacon are members — came out with an extreme plan earlier this year to cut Social Security and Medicare. This plan would raise the eligibility age for these programs to 69. Combined, these increases would likely keep many older workers in the workforce for years more than they desire or expect.

“Medicare’s structure would also be thoroughly transformed. Instead of a guaranteed government set of policies, the RSC budget would instead provide a subsidy for premiums that could be used for any insurance plan… Many, if not most, retirees would pay more for their health insurance than they do now.” Washington Post on May 21, 2021.

Fortenberry’s extremism was further demonstrated by his recent vote against President Biden’s Bi-Partisan Infrastructure bill. This landmark legislation would invest over $2 billion in Nebraska’s aging infrastructure. “To think that he wouldn’t support better roads and strong bridges for our economy in Nebraska, to make sure our businesses are thriving and that our families are having access to the goods that they need, to me, is just unfathomable,” Pansing Brooks said when she announced for Congress.

We don’t only have to emphasize Fortenberry’s extremism, we have to be willing to fight back when he attempts to distract voters with race based wedge issues. We can’t afford a repeat of the Virginia defeat.

The best Democratic response to critical race theory and other racist dog whistles is to highlight following:

We should be proud of how much America has overcome in its history.

We are not all the way there, but have made real progress.

We need to teach the good and bad aspects of American history so students have a full understanding of how far America has come and the work still to do.

Critical race theory and other GOP attacks are about more than just race — the GOP is also attempting to smear our patriotism. A recent focus group in Virginia that voted for Biden and Glenn Youngkin overwhelming said the U.S. is a good country. We can’t let the GOP get away with these smears.

If the GOP wants to play patriot games, I say bring it on. We can turn the tables on the GOP by pointing out their obstruction and desire to make America fail so they can regain power.

Fortunately for Nebraska CD01 voters, State Senator Patty Pansing Brooks is challenging Fortenberry. Patty will stand up for working families and seniors. She will protect our health care and pensions. As Pansing-Brooks said: “We need health care for all, access to affordable child care, living wages for all workers,” she said. “This includes support for development, for enhanced infrastructure, educational opportunities and economic development for our native people through health care.”

If you want different results out of Washington, you have to vote for different people. Vote for Patty Pansing Brooks for a change!

I’m a trial lawyer, a Democratic activist and a sports fan.