Gov. Ricketts, House speaker and GOP House leader call for Fortenberry to resign following conviction

Published: Mar. 25, 2022 at 12:05 PM CDT
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LOS ANGELES, Calif. (KOLN) - U.S. House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy, Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Gov. Pete Ricketts said Nebraska’s 1st District Congressman Jeff Fortenberry should resign following his conviction on campaign finance violations and lying to the FBI.

McCarthy said he had his day in court and that if he wants to appeal the conviction he can do so as a private citizen. “I think when someone’s convicted it’s time to resign,” he said. McCarthy said he plans to talk to the congressman later Friday.

“Congressman Fortenberry’s conviction represents a breach of the public trust and confidence in his ability to serve,” Speaker Nancy Pelosi said. “No one is above the law. Congressman Fortenberry must resign from the House.”

“The people of Nebraska’s First Congressional District deserve active, certain representation. I hope Jeff Fortenberry will do the right thing and resign so his constituents have that certainty while he focuses on his family and other affairs,” Gov. Ricketts said.

Fortenberry has served in Congress since 2005 and is on the ballot for the 2022 primary. Following the guilty verdict, when asked if he still planned to run for re-election, the congressman didn’t give a definitive answer.

“We’re going to spend some time as a family, and that’s what we’re doing right now,” Fortenberry said.

Fortenberry faces a primary challenge in May before the general election in November.

A Fortenberry resignation could present a confusing way forward to fill the vacancy.

Under state law, 32-564, if Fortenberry resigns before Aug. 1, the governor is required to call a special election within 90 days of a congressional vacancy.

Under federal law, if Fortenberry resigns, a special election could be required to fill the vacancy sooner, within 49 days of the vacancy being announced in Congress. But that only occurs under “extraordinary circumstances,” which generally occur when there are more than 100 vacancies in the House.

Because ballots by mail have been printed and are already bound for military members and others overseas, no special election could be held in time to happen at the same time as the May 10 primary.

It also means that Nebraska is past the deadline when Fortenberry’s name can be pulled from the ballot for the May primary.

House vacancies cannot be filled by appointment. Political parties would nominate candidates for the special election.

Mike Flood, a Norfolk media executive, has challenged Fortenberry for the GOP nomination in the spring primary. That vote will be held on May 10, which is 46 days away.

Under the rules of the U.S. House of Representatives, a member is not disqualified from serving if convicted of a felony.

Fortenberry had already surrendered his ability to vote in committees, per internal party rules when a congressional representative is indicted for a felony. However, upon a conviction of a crime for which the punishment maybe two or more years’ imprisonment, that ban extends to also voting on the floor of the House as well as in the committee.

Paul Hammel with The Nebraska Examiner contributed to this report.

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