Political Analysts Say Congressman Fortenberry Could Be in For Interesting Re-Election Bid Next Year

Oct. 20, 2021, 6 p.m. ·

Jeff Fortenberry Headshot with the congressman in a dark suit and a yellow and blue striped shirt with the American flag over his shoulder.
U.S. Rep. Jeff Fortenberry. (Photo courtesy of the Office of Jeff Fortenberry)

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Now that Nebraska Congressman Jeff Fortenberry has been indicted on charges of lying to the FBI, how does that affect his re-election bid next year? Several political experts say it could have mixed results.

Fortenberry has represented Nebraska’s 1st Congressional District since 2005 and has only faced Republican primary challengers twice in that span, in 2010 and 2012. University of Nebraska-Lincoln political science professor John Hibbing said his status as an established Republican in a solidly red state will help, but he likely won’t escape without some damage to his political reputation.

“The fact that it is a Republican state and his district is heavily Republican does bode well for him and maybe he is able to ride this out and in six months people are not viewing this as front and center,” Hibbing said. “On the other hand, a major indictment from the FBI is not something that should be taken lightly and it may rise to a level that it actually does cause him some electoral difficulties.”

The Republican primaries are May 10th of next year, so Fortenberry will likely have to campaign while fighting a legal battle at the same time. Peru State University political science professor Sara Crook said redistricting means he’ll have a new political reality to deal with, which could embolden a challenger within his party.

“There is a little different constituency than he’s had in the past, so that also may be attractive to a challenger seeking an opportunity where they think even in their own party they may have a new representative,” Crook said.

Hibbing said Fortenberry will likely lean on the perception that he’s been targeted by a Democratic administration, although he points out the investigation began under the Trump administration.