The Nebraska State Capitol pictured at sunset on Feb. 17, 2022.
The Nebraska State Capitol pictured at sunset on Feb. 17, 2022. Photo by Zach Wendling/NNS.

The likely resignation of Republican Sen. Ben Sasse, who the University of Florida announced is the sole finalist for its next president, paves the way for a new government appointment, by either Gov. Pete Ricketts or his successor.

The University of Florida on Thursday, Oct. 6, said it has chosen Sasse, the former Midland University president from 2010 to 2014 and one of Nebraska’s U.S. senators since 2015.

Sasse would likely resign from Congress in late November or early December, with state law giving the governor 45 days to appoint a replacement. This could fall to Ricketts or, depending on the timing of the resignation, the next governor.

Ricketts ran for the Senate in 2006 but was defeated by Democratic Sen. Ben Nelson, and his ambitions for a federal office are unknown. However, the governor announced on Oct. 7 he would not appoint himself to the seat — which is allowed under state law.

Instead, Ricketts said in a statement he would “follow the process established for all interested candidates.” This could set up a scenario where Jim Pillen, a University of Nebraska regent and the Republican candidate to succeed Ricketts, could appoint Ricketts to fill the vacancy.

Read more here from the Nebraska News Service.

Ricketts, Peterson criticize Biden’s pardons of federal marijuana possession

President Joe Biden on Thursday, Oct 6, announced he will pardon federal convictions of simple marijuana possession, a move Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts and Attorney General Doug Peterson have both since blasted.

Biden called on governors to do the same for state offenses — the majority of marijuana possession cases — but the Nebraska officials said Biden’s move shows he is “misinformed and ill-advised regarding the issues surrounding marijuana.” 

The pair argued no one is in jail in Nebraska’s system simply because of marijuana possession.

The White House conceded a similar explanation, that no one is currently in federal prison solely for simple possession, though the move could help thousands in overcoming barriers in renting a home or finding a job.

Read more from the Omaha World-Herald’s Luna Stephens here.

Bacon makes national headlines for wading into controversies of GOP colleagues

Rep. Don Bacon, a Republican from Nebraska’s second congressional district, waded into recent controversies with Republican colleagues in Alabama and Georgia on crime and abortion. 

Bacon joined NBC’s “Meet the Press” on Sunday, Oct. 9, where he defended Alabama Sen. Tommy Tuberville after the senator at a rally on Saturday, Oct. 8, said Democrats are “pro-crime” and want crime because they want reparations for minorities.

Bacon told guest host Kristen Welker he wouldn’t have addressed crime the same way as Tuberville — which some have decried as racist — but that politicians must be honest about the country’s crime problem.

The Nebraska representative also joined national Republicans in defending Herschel Walker, the Republican Senate nominee in Georgia, who is alleged to have paid for a girlfriend’s abortion in 2009. Walker has taken a stance against abortion.

Bacon said Walker must “come clean and just be honest,” noting people make mistakes but can ask for forgiveness.

Read more here from The Hill’s Brad Dress on Bacon’s comments regarding Tuberville and Walker.

TV news director defends work on anti-abortion initiative in Curtis

Gray Television terminated a local TV news director for her involvement in a ballot initiative to ban abortions in Curtis. She told The North Platte Telegraph she has “zero regrets” for her work and is already proceeding on future projects.

The Flatwater Free Press published a story on Sept. 30 detailing the involvement of Melanie Standiford, a print and broadcast journalist with more than two decades of experience, including the past five years with KNOP, the NBC affiliate in North Platte, in an initiative to ban abortions in Curtis. 

The Flatwater Free Press story focuses on six Nebraska towns trying to ban abortions — Paxton, Wallace, Hershey, Curtis, Brady and Arnold — as well as three towns that have and 10 others that are working on bans of their own.

Standiford told the Telegraph multiple lawyers have reached out to her, though her legal path is not yet known. She defended herself by saying she is against abortion but that her private and personal life should be separate.

Shannon Booth, the vice president and general manager of KNOP confirmed the firing to the Telegraph in a statement, adding that civic involvement is encouraged so long as it doesn’t interfere with journalistic impartiality. 

Read the initial story from Natalia Alamdari with the Flatwater Free Press and the follow-up with The North Platte Telegraph’s Tim Johnson.

Brewer to return to Ukraine Oct. 14

State Sen. Tom Brewer of Gordon is set to return to Ukraine on Oct. 14, his second trip this year since Russia invaded the country in February.

Over the summer, Brewer toured the country, delivered supplies and talked to soldiers and civilians. His second trip will focus on delivering electronic Bibles to Ukrainian soldiers and chaplains and helping evacuate some elderly people stuck in “no-man’s land” between Ukrainian and Russian lines.

Read more from the Nebraska Examiner’s Paul Hammel here.

Second Republican joins Lincoln mayoral race

Stan Parker, a former Husker offensive lineman who also runs a nonprofit Christian ministry, is the second candidate to announce a run for Lincoln mayor.

State Sen. Suzanne Geist of Lincoln announced her candidacy in mid-September to challenge Mayor Leirion Gaylor Baird in the spring. Gaylor Baird, a Democrat first elected, has not yet announced a reelection campaign.

Tom Osborne, the former Husker football coach and Republican congressman, joined Parker in announcing Parker’s candidacy and endorsed his campaign.

Read more from the Lincoln Journal Star’s Chris Dunker here.

Looking ahead
  • Public hearings on Tuesday, Oct. 11, from 1:30-4:30 p.m. and 6-9 p.m. on voter ID and minimum wage respectively at the Thompson Alumni Center, 6705 Dodge St., Omaha. Additional hearings are scheduled in Lincoln the following week.
  • Rep. Don Bacon and State Sen. Tony Vargas, a Republican and Democrat, will debate twice this week. The first is during the lunch hour on Thursday, Oct. 13, with the League of Women Voters and Omaha Press. The second is Sunday, Oct. 16, at 6 p.m. hosted by KETV.
  • The Nebraska Legislature’s Judiciary Committee will have a hearing on Thursday, Oct. 13, at 1 p.m. in the State Capitol’s Room 1113 regarding an interim study on health care and mental health care staffing at the Department of Correctional Services.
  • Early ballots are being sent out for the November election. Oct. 28 is the final day to register in person to vote in the election, and those who prefer mail-in voting must have forms postmarked no later than Oct. 21. The election is Tuesday, Nov. 8.