Cong. Fortenberry Poised to Enter Nebraska Senate Race

by Nathan L. Gonzales January 6, 2012 · 5:24 PM EST

Cong. Jeff Fortenberry (R) is actively considering a bid for the U.S. Senate in Nebraska and is likely to enter the race, according to multiple sources in the state and in Washington.

Given Sen. Ben Nelson’s (D) retirement announcement over the holidays and questions about the current GOP field, Fortenberry appears to see an opportunity to make the jump to statewide office.

According to sources, Fortenberry is making calls and making staff changes in what looks like an effort to lay the groundwork for a Senate run.

The congressman would join Attorney General Jon Bruning, state Treasurer Don Stenberg and state Sen. Deb Fischer in the GOP race. Bruning would start with a financial advantage, but Fortenberry had a considerable $568,000 on hand in his congressional account at the end of September, which would place him well ahead of Stenberg and Fischer.

According to GOP sources, there is always a chance the congressman could change directions until he officially announces his decision, but Fortenberry is definitely leaning toward a Senate run. A number of Republicans in Nebraska are already making plans to run for Fortenberry’s congressional seat, yet another indication that he will run for Senate.

The dynamic of the race would change if Gov. Dave Heineman (R) decides to enter the race. The popular governor has shown no interest in coming to Washington but, according to some insiders, has not completely closed the door to a run.

Democrats don’t have a candidate yet in the wake of Nelson’s announcement.