The race for Nebraska’s First District seat in the U.S. House of Representatives is getting crowded—for November, at least.
Two opponents from other parties have emerged, but eight-term incumbent Jeff Fortenberry is without a challenger, so far, in May’s Republican primary. The 1st District envelops most of eastern Nebraska, including Lincoln, Bellevue, Fremont, Norfolk and Columbus, along with Offutt Air Force Base.
The Fremont Tribune reported last week that Dennis Grace will run for Fortenberry’s seat as a Libertarian. State Sen. Kate Bolz of Lincoln, a Democrat, said in October that she plans to make a run for the seat Fortenberry has held since 2005. A Democrat has not won the eastern Nebraska House seat since 1964, and Fortenberry, a former Lincoln city councilman, will be seeking his ninth term next year.
Grace, a Nebraska native and a newcomer to politics, has lived in Fremont with his wife, Kara, and four kids since 2011, working as an insurance fraud investigator.
But Grace said a health incident in April left him worried about the future of his family and what kind of lessons he would leave behind for them.
“One of the lessons that really popped up into my head was this: I’ll never again complain about something without putting forth whatever it takes to get up and change that something,” he said. “So I won’t sit back and say that everyone is to blame if I’m not willing to take some of the punches myself and go out there and change it.”
Grace was born and raised in Omaha, graduating from Omaha South High School in 1988. He received his bachelor’s degree in criminal justice administration and master’s degree in security management with an emphasis on homeland security from Bellevue University.
He plans to run on the basics of the platform of the Libertarian Party, which includes a smaller government, fewer taxes and less involvement in people’s lives.
“There’s just such an eclectic group of people in these counties from farmers to urban artists, a little bit of everything,” he said. “So I plan on getting out and hitting every single county, social media blitzes and really just being visible.”
Grace said he’s also interested in criminal justice reform and immigration reform, which he said have become more complicated than they really are.
Grace plans on making a public announcement sometime in late January or early February of his plans for the district during the campaign season.
Bolz, who represents a legislative district in south-central Lincoln, is executive director of the Nebraska Association of Service Providers, a statewide association of community-based disability service providers.
“I think Nebraskans want an independent-minded representative who is going to vote their interests,” she said. “We need to be focused on the people and not on the politics. I believe Nebraskans are still open to voting for the person, not the party.”
If elected, she said in a Lincoln Journal Star interview, she would “focus on making health care affordable” for everyone, and she’d be ready to consider adding a public option component to health care coverage “if that’s what people choose.”
Action also is needed to reduce the cost of prescription drugs, Bolz said.