Civic Engagement Draft Nebraska Politics

It is Time to Run

Phew! So far, 2019 in Trump’s America has largely been an exhausting rinse and repeat of previous years. Kids are still in cages, there is still a crisis at the border, and Trump’s racism has come home to roost in his tweets about Baltimore and the Congressional Squad of four women of color. He wants to tie much needed gun control measures to his completely bonkers immigration reforms. But I want you to join me in the Wayback Machine(TM) for a minute, all the way back to 2018. That’s right 2018, the midterm elections in which a badass lady scientist with a law degree quit her job to represent Nebraska’s CD1.

2018’s Midterm

The midterm elections in November of 2018 saw a blue wave not only in the gain House seats for Democrats, but also the sheer number of Democratic votes. Here in deep red Nebraska, it can be hard to remember that. However, that badass lady scientist with a law degree, Jessica McClure, amassed some of those extra Democratic votes, winning Lancaster County. While she didn’t win the election, she came closer than anyone in recent memory to taking out hair-spray connoisseur and perpetual manbaby, Jeff Fartenberry. Excuse me, Fortenberry. In part, her increase in votes, with less than a tenth of Fortenbaby’s war chest, was a result of the sheer pluck and hard work of her inspired and inspiring campaign team. As Sydney Butler told me in the summer of 2018, voter contacts and a strong ground game carried McClure through the primary by a wide margin and into the general with a big blue swing.

In the meantime…

Since the 2018 election cycle, Jeff Fortenberry has become something of a national laughing stock as his hurt fee-fees over campaign sign shenanigans–which some might describe as defacing while others might describe as an improvement– that spurned a thousand googly eye memes and GIFs that still regularly descend upon anything he dares post to Facebook.

In addition to his inability to take a joke, probably the same one he heard repeatedly in middle school, there has been some serious fallout from this incident. As we documented nine months ago, his chief of staff made threats towards a UNL professor (you can listen to them here). Apart from a potential abuse of power, this is a violation of the Franking Regulations, which state that emails sent by a congressional office should not be related to a campaign. Dr. Archer was using taxpayer resources, including his time, email, and potentially his phone to call and threaten Dr. Ari Kohen.

And just this past week, Jeff was so offended by a completely accurate, in our opinion, sign held by our new favorite reader, that he forbade signs at his Lincoln townhall had members of the Lincoln Police Department refuse entry to those with signs. As ever, Seeing Red’s crack team of investigators was there to record yet another abuse of power by Fortenhairy.

Which means…

Jeff Fortenberry is not popular in Lancaster County, the most populous in CD1. He’s a laughing stock with a tender ego who claims “political violence” in the form of googly eye stickers, and who we strongly suspect of leaning on LPD to bring charges and to put a ludicrous piece on Lincoln’s Crime Stoppers.

And for that matter, neither is Republican Governor Pete Ricketts, who lost Lancaster County by nearly 12 points, nor is Deb-plorable Fischer, who lost Lancaster by a similar margin to Jane Raybould. Nebraska’s GOP is rapidly losing ground to people who increasingly see racism, sexism, homophobia, xenophobia as unacceptable.

This blue wave and hard work moved the needle for Democrats in 2018. And if you haven’t been paying attention, that needle moved further in 2019 when Megan Stock turned out more Democratic voters than any other city candidate with a progressive platform in the most conservative district in Lincoln. Cyndi Lamm’s seat also flipped, replacing a bigoted, anti-LGBTQ troll with a totally fantastic gay social worker. And the mayor’s race? Yea, the Democrat won with 54.4% of the vote, which far exceeds the proportion of registered Democrats. Once again, a strong ground game and voter contacts won the day, although donors also turned out in ways for Gaylor Baird that we can only dream of for our federal representatives (hint hint, donors, we need you to fund other races).

Oh, and despite this blue wave, no one has announced as a Democratic candidate for CD1 yet, despite the rapidly approaching 2020 election.

…you should run

No seriously, someone has to do it, and it could be you. If you don’t want to run, talk a friend into running. You should most definitely get in touch with state Senator Kate Bolz and ask her to run. We think she would be a perfect candidate to flip our mixed up, gerrymandered district.

Or really, call any other promising young Dem in office and beg them to run. And then you should volunteer and donate for whichever Democrat stirs your heart and then do the same for whichever Democratic candidate wins the May 2020 primary.

If you run, Seeing Red will throw you a spectacular fundraiser of epic proportions with dueling bartenders. Frankly, we think that’s reason enough to run. But if it isn’t, we’ll also throw in a repeat of my 2018 cannonball in an American flag bikini for shits and giggles when we double the amount you thought we could raise.

Yes, you.

And lastly…

You should ask your local county party what they are doing to build a pipeline of candidates from the school board to city council to the Unicameral, Congress, and statewide offices. Ask them how they are building the capacity of local campaign staff to run a strong ground race in a largely rural state, and how they are going to fund raise. And while you’re at it, I think a call or two to State Party Chair, Jane Kleeb, to inquire how her book is going and WHERE THE HELL OUR CANDIDATES ARE would not go amiss.

It is time for Jeff and his last minute town halls and hairspray and his thin skin to sit down. And to build a pipeline of young, hungry Dems that we know are out there to capture that blue wave at the local and state level.