Nebraska’s Republican governor backs primary challenger against GOP lawmaker
Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts (R) came out against Rep. Jeff Fortenberry’s (R-Neb.) reelection bid on Friday, announcing that he would endorse state Sen. Mike Flood in the Republican primary for Nebraska’s 1st Congressional District.
“Mike will be able to focus his entire energy on representing the first district here in Nebraska and stopping this radical agenda coming out of D.C., and that’s why I’m so proud to be able to endorse him in this primary to be the next congressman from the first congressional district,” Ricketts said.
Ricketts’s endorsement is a big get for Flood, who launched a primary challenge to Fortenberry last week, just days after the nine-term congressman announced that he would seek reelection despite his indictment last fall on multiple felony charges. Fortenberry has pleaded not guilty.
Ricketts wasn’t the only high-profile Nebraska Republican to endorse Flood’s campaign on Friday. Former Gov. Dave Heineman also announced that he would support the Nebraska state senator’s bid for Fortenberry’s seat.
In announcing his endorsement on Friday, Heineman noted that Fortenberry is the only member of Nebraska’s congressional delegation in modern history to be indicted on felony charges. He said that the Nebraska congressman’s candidacy could put the seat at risk.
“We respect and appreciate his service, but we don’t want to risk losing the seat to a Democrat,” Heineman said. “Therefore I’m supporting and endorsing Mike Flood for Congress.”
Fortenberry is facing three felony charges, including lying to federal agents about the source of $30,000 in illegal campaign contributions. He has pleaded not guilty to the charges. Earlier this month, a federal judge rejected Fortenberry’s request to dismiss the charges.
The indictments have forced Fortenberry to temporarily resign from his House committee assignments. House Republican Conference rules require lawmakers facing felony charges to step away from committee work until the charges are dropped or reduced to less than felonies.
Fortenberry called Ricketts’s and Heineman’s endorsements of Flood “disappointing” but said that his political fate would ultimately be determined by his constituents.
“Today’s announcement is particularly disappointing because I have counted these people as friends and you hope you can rely on your friends to stand by you when you face adversity like a false and unjust accusation,” he said in a statement.
“However, I’ve been very happy to receive endorsements for my re-election from business, community and political leaders across the First District. The voters will pass their own judgement on the character of the candidates in this race and I will spend this year talking with them about the accomplishments, leadership and conservative values that make me the best person to earn their vote and represent them in Congress.”
Updated at 1:38 p.m.