Editor’s note: This story has been updated.
Nebraska’s most interesting congressional primary campaign this election season started as a financial mismatch. It might not stay that way for long.
Former Speaker of the Legislature Mike Flood shook up the GOP race in the 1st Congressional District by challenging fellow Republican Rep. Jeff Fortenberry.
Flood’s campaign announced Monday that he had raised more than $400,000 in two weeks since joining the race.
That’s more than nine-term incumbent Fortenberry raised in any of the first three quarters of 2021.
It’s also more than many U.S. House incumbents raise in a full quarter. Flood said he was “overwhelmed” by the support.
State Sen. Patty Pansing Brooks of Lincoln, the top Democrat running in the 1st District, raised $210,000 in the fourth quarter of 2021. She has $160,000 cash on hand.
The congressman faces fights on two fronts: one with Flood in the primary and the other with federal prosecutors in court. Fortenberry was indicted Oct. 19, accused of lying to the FBI about illegal foreign funds raised for his campaign.
Court documents show he was recorded by a federal informant and told the FBI something different than the recordings showed.
It’s a big reason why Gov. Pete Ricketts and former Gov. Dave Heineman endorsed Flood. The two governors often disagree politically.
Fortenberry’s campaign on Monday emphasized some of its own endorsements, including Lt. Gov. Mike Foley and two former Fortenberry staffers, State Sen. Rita Sanders of Bellevue and Norfolk Mayor Josh Moenning.
“Nebraskans know Jeff,” Foley said in a statement from the campaign. “They trust him. He’s worked hard for our state.”
Fortenberry’s fourth-quarter, year-end campaign finance forms are expected to show him sitting on a sizable war chest.
His campaign did not immediately release those fundraising numbers. His staff said they planned to file this afternoon but the records had not been filed as of 4 p.m. Monday.
Flood’s campaign said nearly 100% of his contributions came from Nebraskans, “and none are from foreign nationals.”
Fortenberry flexed the financial advantages of incumbency this week, airing TV ads attacking Flood on immigration. He aired TV ads attacking Flood’s votes for state funding of prenatal care for immigrant mothers giving birth to Americans.
Fortenberry spent nearly $2.5 million on his 2020 re-election campaign against State Sen. Kate Bolz of Lincoln.
He has long a strong base of support in the Lincoln area, where he lives. He and Flood are both widely known to Catholic voters in the 1st District, which includes Lincoln, Bellevue and Norfolk.
Flood retains strong ties to the business communities in Omaha and Lincoln from his time in the Legislature. The senator from Norfolk has a reliable base of support in Republican-rich northeast Nebraska.
Both Republican candidates are staunchly anti-abortion.
The GOP primary election is May 10. Early voting starts in April.
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