How will Rep. Fortenberry's soon-to-be vacated seat be filled?
Congressman Jeff Fortenberry’s resignation has thrown a curveball into the typical pattern of an election cycle. Unlike the Senate, a vacancy in the House of Representatives follows a different process to fill. A Senator can be replaced by gubernatorial appointment, but a member of the House must be chosen by a vote of the people of their district.
Because Fortenberry’s resignation came before the May Primary election, Nebraska’s political parties must choose their preferred candidate to stand in a special election that will occur after the May primary, but well before the November election. Whomever achieves victory in that election will assume the power of incumbency and will run as the sitting Congressperson in the general election.
Presumably, the current front runners in the primary - Mike Flood (Republican) and Patty Pansing Brooks (Democrat) - will be the standard bearers of their parties in the special election in June, however that is by no means a settled issue.
Both parties are free to choose from among others running, or someone not running at all.
It isn’t uncommon for a party’s internal dynamics to lead them to nominate a “placeholder,” who pledges only to fill the seat until the winner of the general election is determined. In a tightly contested primary election this often occurs to avoid advantaging one candidate over another within the same party.
However, there appears to be a clear frontrunner for both parties, lessening the likelihood of either party anointing yet another wildcard into the race.
The rules require candidates for the special election be named before the primary election is held, so the primary election will become less of a competition and more of a coronation for the upcoming special election a month later. The special election will be something of a trial run for the general election, presumably involving the same candidates once again.
Expect the elbows to grow quite sharp ahead of all three contests as the results of each will reveal the weaknesses a campaign must overcome before the next election. -30-