'It takes a lot of work': Special Election NE-1 seat planned for June 28, parties to pick candidates

Posted at 6:47 PM, Apr 01, 2022
and last updated 2022-04-01 19:47:48-04

OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — Voters in Nebraska's 1st Congressional District are going to be busier than normal in the coming months.

Due to the resignation of Jeff Fortenberry, who was convicted last month of three felonies stemming from federal campaign finance violations, a special election for June 28 will take place in the district.

“You have to have a full election in the midst of this process between the primary and the general, it takes a lot of work, a lot of people. But we’re going to do it, our counties are up to it, and we’ll get this completed,” said Secretary of State Bob Evnen.

Evnen, who runs Nebraska elections, says polls will be open that day, along with mail-in voting options allowed during the regular election cycle.

So here's what will happen: the primary for races including congress, governor and state legislature seats will take place May 10. The special election for Nebraska’s 1st District happens June 28 and then voters will pick their House member for the next two years, along with the rest of the races on Nov. 9, the date of the general election.

“We’re going to do the very best we can to make sure voters understand that we have two processes going here,” said Evnen.

And as for who will be on the ballot, it’ll be a bit unusual.

“The parties will have to decide who they want to have on that special election ballot,” said Evnen.

Both the Republican and Democratic parties will have executive committee meetings where they’ll pick their next candidate.

On the Republican side, four candidates already put their name in the running for Fortenberry’s now-vacant seat: current State Sen. Mike Flood is the front-runner, along with John Glenn Weaver, Curtis Huffman and Thireena Connelly.

For the Democrats, it's essentially a two-person race between State Sen. Patty Pansing Brooks and Jazari Kual Zakaria.

It's a district that includes Lincoln and much of Sarpy County including Papillion, Bellevue and La Vista. It also includes deep red areas including Norfolk, Columbus and Fremont.

Nebraska Democratic Party Chair Jane Kleeb says whoever is chosen will have a long path to victory, but the party will choose who based on fundraising, proven record of lawmaking and the ability to connect with voters.

“While this district definitely got more Democratic in the redistricting process, which is good for our candidates, it’s a very uphill climb. So the momentum that we’ll be able to build from the primary to the special [election] to the general [election] is something that we know is going to put the odds better in our favor,” said Kleeb.

Evnen said this process is unusual for Nebraska, because replacements for U.S. Senators are appointed. The last time a special election for congress occurred in Nebraska was in 1951, when 3rd District Rep. Karl Stefan died.

The 1st District last held a special election in 1940, when Rep. George Heinke was killed in a car accident on the way to Washington.

3 News Now spoke with Butler County Election Commissioner Stephanie Laska, who said the period will be stressful for her three full-time staff members, one part-time staff member and herself.

Laska said it will specifically be renting buildings that will add costs, and finding poll workers in the county of only 5,500 voters will be a challenge.

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