State Sen. Kate Bolz of Lincoln may challenge Republican Rep. Jeff Fortenberry's 2020 bid for a ninth term, setting the stage for what could be the most competitive 1st District House contest in more than a decade.
Bolz, a Democrat who has been elected twice to a seat in the nonpartisan Legislature from a marginally Republican district, is expected to make a final decision soon.
If she enters the race, Bolz would be the highest-profile challenger that Fortenberry has faced since his first two congressional contests more than a decade ago.
In 2006, the Lincoln congressman defeated former Lt. Gov. Maxine Moul in his first bid for reelection.
Fortenberry, a former Lincoln City Council member, initially won the House seat in 2004, defeating Speaker of the Legislature Curt Bromm of Wahoo in the Republican primary election and state Sen. Matt Connealy of Decatur, the Democratic nominee, in the general election.
The 1st Congressional District, which was reconfigured following the 2010 federal census, includes Lincoln, Bellevue, Fremont, Norfolk and Columbus along with Offutt Air Force Base.
A Democrat has not won that House seat in more than half a century; Democratic nominee Clair Callan of Odell snared a single term in 1964.
If Bolz ultimately decides to enter the race, she is expected to center on health care, U.S. trade policy that has cost Nebraska farmers an estimated $2 billion of income in the past two years and job creation initiatives that can help bolster rural communities.
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The estimated loss of farm income triggered by tariffs imposed by the Trump administration in an ongoing trade war comes from the Nebraska Farm Bureau.
Bolz grew up on a family farm and graduated from Palmyra High School.
Although Fortenberry lost Lincoln — as did both Gov. Pete Ricketts and Sen. Deb Fischer — in last year's election, he sailed to victory over Democratic nominee Jessica McClure, winning 17 of 18 counties and compiling a total victory margin of 48,643 votes.
The congressman will have huge advantages in campaign funding resources along with districtwide name identification next year. His campaign fund had $1.8 million in cash on hand as of June 30, according to Federal Election Commission records.
Fortenberry is a member of the House Appropriations Committee and dean of Nebraska's congressional delegation.
Bolz, a member of the Legislature's Appropriations Committee, represents south-central Lincoln's 29th District.
The 2018 voter registration figures in that legislative district showed 11,279 Republicans and 10,000 Democrats. In addition, 5,776 voters were registered as nonpartisan.