September 23, 2023

Dawson County Journal

Dawson County, Nebraska

This Week in Nebraska Politics: Sasse approved to UF, Ricketts potential frontrunner for appointment

The 13-member University of Florida Board of Trustees unanimously approved on Tuesday, Nov. 1, U.S. Sen. Ben Sasse of Nebraska as the next UF president. 

Sasse’s likely resignation, pending final approval, gives Gov. Pete Ricketts or his successor the opportunity to appoint a successor. 

The Florida Board of Governors, which oversees the State University System in the state, will meet on Thursday, Nov. 10, in Tampa for a final vote. Sasse could resign shortly after, with Nebraska law requiring an appointment within 45 days of the vacancy.

Sasse’s candidacy has led to protests by UF faculty, whose Faculty Senate approved a no-confidence resolution 72-16, and students. The university enforced a regulation that students could not protest inside campus buildings, which meant protests continued outside the hall where trustees approved Sasse’s appointment.

Read more from The Gainesville Sun’s Gershon Harrell here.


With Sasse’s likely exit from Congress, where he’s been since 2015, many people are looking to who his successor may be. 

Gov. Pete Ricketts has expressed interest in the seat and previously ran for the Senate in 2006. However, Ricketts has said he would let his successor pick the appointee and not appoint himself. If he seeks the seat, he’s said he would follow the same process as other candidates.

Ricketts has not yet publicly indicated he wants the seat, but in an interview with POLITICO published on Thursday, Nov. 3, he made it clear he’s open to the career shift. The article also states both Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky and Sen. Rick Scott of Florida, chair of the Senate GOP campaign arm, “have been courting Ricketts as he plays coy about his interest in Sasse’s seat.”

State Sen. Lou Ann Linehan of Elkhorn, who was chief of staff to former U.S. Sen. Chuck Hagel of Nebraska, told the Nebraska Examiner she does not know of anyone else more qualified and would support Ricketts in the shift.

University of Nebraska Regent Jim Pillen, the Republican candidate who would succeed Ricketts if elected, is the “odds-on favorite” to win the governor’s race, according to the Nebraska Examiner. Ricketts endorsed and contributed heavily to Pillen’s campaign, and Pillen could appoint the successor.

Whomever is appointed to succeed Sasse will serve until the next general election in 2024, when both Senate seats from Nebraska will be up for a vote.

Read more from POLITICO’s Jordain Carney and the Nebraska Examiner’s Paul Hammel here.
Morfeld demands retraction from local radio show 

State Sen. Adam Morfeld is demanding local radio station KLIN issue a retraction and remove an article that claims, Morfeld said, without substantiation, he is being investigated for sexual assault.

“Drive Time Lincoln” host Jack Riggins hosted a show on the afternoon of Friday, Nov. 4, where he interviewed a woman who said she had been sexually assaulted by Morfeld. Riggins is a former interim communications director for the NE GOP.

The woman, who went by “Ruth,” told Riggins Morfeld cornered, raped and choked her in a bathroom and that he threatened her if she told anyone. The woman did not specify where or when the alleged assault occurred.

Morfeld has said the allegations are “complete lies” and categorically false, according to the Lincoln Journal Star. Morfeld’s opponent, incumbent Lancaster County Attorney Pat Condon, could not be reached for comment by the Journal Star.

Days prior to Riggins’ show, Matt Innis, a former chair of the Lancaster County GOP, and the Nebraska Freedom Coalition both advanced the allegations, alleging the Lincoln Police Department was investigating Morfeld.

LPD told a Journal Star reporter the department was not investigating a sexual assault allegation against Morfeld, despite Innis’ claim.

As of Monday evening on Nov. 7, KLIN has not issued a retraction or removed the story. An editor’s note states KLIN News has filed a Freedom of Information Act request to determine if other filings exist and that the request “was in search of other filings and not necessarily related to the anonymous report.”

Read more from the Lincoln Journal Star’s Chris Dunker here.
Tuesday election could lead to more restrictions on abortion

Nebraska Democrats are detailing how close their margins are in the Nebraska Legislature related to abortion restrictions, rallying to maintain or expand ranks in Tuesday’s election.

A Vanity Fair article with Jane Kleeb, the chair of the Nebraska Democratic Party, and State Sen. Machaela Cavanaugh of Omaha addressed what will happen if more senators against abortion are elected.

While the Nebraska Legislature is officially nonpartisan, it’s composed of 32 Republicans and 17 Democrats. In the spring, an abortion ban was defeated on the first reading by two votes.

New research from the Society of Family Planning is also reporting legal abortions in the country fell by 6% after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in June. However, abortions did not decline in all states, according to The Hill’s report on the research.

Total abortions increased by 30% in Nebraska between April and August. There were 200 procedures in April in the state where abortion is banned after 22 weeks and 260 in August.

Read more from Vanity Fair’s Abigail Tracy and The Hill’s Gianna Melillo here.
Democrats continue to target Bacon in 2nd congressional district

Democrats remain optimistic about unseating Rep. Don Bacon of Nebraska, even as the national landscape is trending against Democrats.

POLITICO ranks the 2nd congressional district in Nebraska as a toss-up, with Bacon in a “perennially competitive district” he was elected to the seat in 2016. Part of the reason Democrats remain hopeful to flip the seat is when the seat split in 2020 for President Joe Biden but also for Bacon.

Bacon will face State Sen. Tony Vargas, his Democratic challenger, on Tuesday, Nov. 8.

Read more from POLITICO’s Jordain Carney here.
Brewer details second Ukraine mission to Nebraska Examiner

State Sen. Tom Brewer of Gordon returned to Ukraine in October and spoke with the Nebraska Examiner via telephone on his second mission to the country.

The decorated military veteran is delivering solar Bibles and portable cookstoves to soldiers on the frontlines, with a dud missile landing just yards away from him. 

Brewer told the Examiner he is preparing his own “trip report” for members of Congress about conditions and whether military aid is helping. He also told the Nebraska Examiner he plans to share what he has learned by traveling to Washington, D.C., once he returns.

Read more from the Nebraska Examiner’s Paul Hammel here.
Ricketts to be honored with oldest national decoration from Japan

Gov. Pete Ricketts is set to be honored Wednesday with Japan’s oldest national decoration for strengthening relations between Nebraska and the country.

Ricketts is scheduled to receive the Order of the Rising Sun, Gold and Silver Star at the Imperial Palace in Tokyo on Wednesday. According to a news release from Ricketts’ office, it is because of Ricketts’ work in strengthening the pair’s agricultural relationship.

As governor, Ricketts has led three trade missions to the country and hosted multiple Japanese dignitaries in Nebraska, according to the Omaha World-Herald.

Read more from the Omaha World-Herald’s Jenna Ebbers here.

Source: Nebraska Regional News