Fortenberry resigning after jury convicts on all three charges
LOS ANGELES, Calif. (KOLN) - Congressman Jeff Fortenberry announced that he would be resigning from Congress Saturday after a California jury convicted him on all three charges in his federal trial. A spokesperson confirmed to 10/11 NOW that his campaign is also ended, even though his name cannot be removed from the ballot. Fortenberry announced this in his e-newsletter, saying:
Thank you for entrusting me with the great responsibility of governing our nation. When I first ran for Congress, I said that I would focus on our national security, economic security, and family security. It is my sincerest hope that I have made a contribution to the betterment of America, and the wellbeing of our great state of Nebraska.
Due to the difficulties of my current circumstances, I can no longer serve you effectively. I will resign from Congress shortly. Below is a letter to my colleagues in the House of Representatives. I invite you to read it.
This is my last Fort Report. Please know that it has been the honor of my life to serve you. Goodbye my friends. May God bless you.”
Fortenberry’s decision comes after multiple calls for him to resign following his conviction Thursday on campaign finance violations and lying to the FBI.
On Friday, U.S. House Republican Leader Kevin 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.
“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. Pete Ricketts said.
Fortenberry has served in Congress since 2005 and is on the ballot for the 2022 primary.
Fortenberry’s resignation presents a confusing way forward to fill the vacancy.
Nebraska Secretary of State Bob Evnen said 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.
Evnen said this would be tough and cost the state hundreds of thousands of dollars.
“It would be a real challenge to have a special election in the midst of this election year so the timing of the election is fixed, it has to be held within 90 days, has be set within 90 days of the vacancy,” Evnen said. “In order to give counties an opportunity to get set up an election would probably want to move it to later in that period as a logistical manner.”
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 rules of the U.S. House of Representatives, a member is not disqualified from serving if convicted of a felony.
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