Nebraska Republican state Sen. Mike Flood won the special election Tuesday to fill the vacancy left by Jeff Fortenberry, who resigned from Congress after he was convicted of lying to authorities about illegal campaign contributions.
Flood originally launched a challenge to Fortenberry in the GOP primary. But Fortenberry was effectively out of the race after he was convicted on three felony charges of concealing information and lying to federal authorities about his 2016 reelection campaign contributions.
Fortenberry announced his resignation in March, triggering a special election to fill his seat for the remainder of the term. Fortenberry was sentenced Tuesday to two years of probation.
Flood beat Democrat Patty Pansing Brooks, who is also a state senator, 53 percent to 47 percent in a race The Associated Press called at 10:11 p.m. Central time. The two candidates will face each other again in November after winning their parties’ nominations in the May primary for a full two-year term.
“Both Pansing Brooks and Flood haven’t been deluging the airwaves,” said John Hibbing, a professor of political science at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. “I don’t know if they’re keeping their powder dry for the election which is coming up in November. … The bottom line is that Flood is going to have an R next to his name, and that carries a lot of weight in this part of the country.”
Flood, who has also worked in broadcasting and law, was first elected to the Nebraska Legislature in 2004 at the age of 29. Three years later, he was elected the legislature’s speaker. He served in that role until the end of his second term in 2013.
“As a speaker, he was not out there on the far right, by any stretch of the imagination,” Hibbing said. “He worked well with people on the Democratic side.”
He noted that Flood has shifted his messaging in his bid for a congressional seat.
“To the extent he has been campaigning, it does reflect a little bit more of a rightward tilt than I associated with him during his stint as speaker, and perhaps that reflects what’s happened in the country,” Hibbing said.
Flood stepped away from politics in 2013 when his wife, Mandi, was diagnosed with breast cancer, according to the Omaha World-Herald. He returned to public office in 2020, recapturing his seat.
Born in Omaha, Neb., Flood moved with his family to Norfolk after his father was appointed Madison County attorney. His mother, who died in early 2022, was a nurse throughout her career and worked as the director of home health services at a hospital in Norfolk, the Omaha newspaper reported.
Flood has been in the radio business since he was a teenager. He started as a radio host in Norfolk when he was 15 years old, according to the Unicameral Update, a publication produced by the clerk’s office in the Nebraska Legislature. He stuck with the business after earning his law degree from the University of Nebraska, starting his own broadcasting company. Flood’s work at a Norfolk law firm has included business and communications law.