On a message of bipartisanship, health care access and prioritizing trade issues, Democratic State Sen. Kate Bolz announced Thursday that she wants to challenge Republican U.S. Rep. Jeff Fortenberry.
Bolz, 40, joins political newcomer Barbara Ramsey, a 31-year-old security analyst, in seeking the Democratic nomination to the 1st Congressional District seat that represents Lincoln and most of the eastern part of the state except Omaha and some of its suburbs. The district includes Bellevue.
The winner of the Democratic primary will face an uphill battle in a district that Fortenberry won by 60% in 2018 on a platform of national security, economic security and family security.
Fortenberry is in his eighth term and is the ranking Republican on the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies.
He reported having $1.8 million in his campaign war chest as of the end of June.
“In Nebraska, if you’re going to run a political campaign, start with a positive vision for our country,” Fortenberry said Thursday. “There’s already enough nastiness in Washington.”
Both Democrats said they plan to center their pitch to voters on agriculture and tariffs.
Bolz, 40, of Lincoln, is term-limited in the Legislature, where she served as vice chairwoman of the appropriations committee.
She said growing up on a farm in Palmyra helped teach her the value of integrity and doing right by her neighbor, and said her Christian faith is what drew her to public office.
Bolz said a growing contingent of nonpartisan voters in the district could propel her to victory.
“People are looking for independent leadership, not partisan politics,” she said.
It was the issues of health care access and child welfare that spurred her to run for the Legislature, where she also pushed for LGBT workplace protections.
She pointed to doubling the funding for the Office of Violence Prevention and the creation of a tax-free savings program for people with disabilities as top accomplishments.
Sign up for The World-Herald's afternoon updates
Receive a summary of the day’s popular and trending stories from Omaha.com.
Bolz said she has been in talks with groups like the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and plans to raise at least $1.5 million to take on Fortenberry. But she said her focus is talking to Nebraskans.
On health care, Bolz said she supports a public option. But, she said, moving to a “Medicare for All” system would mean that some people would lose insurance plans they like.
On trade, Bolz said she visited China last year. She said she would put Nebraska agricultural producers at the forefront of her trade policy. While she said she knows the U.S. needs to “get tough on China,” she wants the Nebraska 1st District’s representative to push to do so in ways that don’t cost so much to farmers.
She also said she’d work within her own party to advance pro-trade policies.
On impeachment, Bolz said she supports “finding the facts” on whether Republican President Donald Trump asked Ukraine to investigate the family of Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden. But Bolz said she thinks November 2020 voters will be the ones to make the decision about whether Trump should stay in office.
Ramsey, 31, of Bellevue, said her pitch is that she can bring people together.
“I have not worked as a politician before,” she said. “I am just like everybody else, I know the struggles that they deal with in everyday life.”
Ramsey, who is transgender, said she would put a focus on LGBT issues. If elected, she would be the first openly transgender member of Congress.
She is a supporter of Medicare for All and the impeachment inquiry. She, too, grew up on a farm, in northwest Iowa.
She said she wants to bring farmers to the table on finding solutions to climate change and pointed to recent flooding as a reason Nebraskans should make the issue a priority.
Ramsey said people are looking for change in a variety of things — and one of them, she said, is that Nebraska District 1 constituents want a representative to Congress who is not from Lincoln.