An unusual move confirms the former chairman of the state Republican Party to the Nebraska State Fair Board.
The Unicameral has rejected the recommendation of the Agriculture Committee to not approve Governor Dave Heineman’s appointment of Mark Fahelson of Lincoln to the board.
Sen. Bill Avery of Lincoln told colleagues they might not have liked Fahelson’s politics, but they should allow him to serve on the State Fair Board.
“Like many in here, I probably have plenty of reasons to be upset with Mr. Fahleson. I was on the receiving end of some pretty nasty negative mailings that were produced on his watch,” Avery said. “But that is not sufficient reason to oppose his confirmation.”
The legislature’s Agriculture Committee voted 5-3 to reject the nomination of Fahleson to the State Fair Board.
Fahleson’s appointment was confirmed when the Unicameral rejected the committee recommendation on a 4-31-8 vote; four senators voting to uphold the committee rejection of Fahleson, 31 voting against the committee recommendation and eight not voting.
Sen. Steve Lathrop of Omaha argued against Fahleson’s appointment, claiming Fahleson had meddled in the working of the Unicameral during his tenure as Nebraska Republican Party chairman.
“Where I believe the line has been crossed and why I have a problem with this appointment is when the chair of either party begins to tell the members what they have to do to be a good Republican or a good Democrat,” Lathrop said during floor debate. “That’s when the line gets crossed.”
Lathrop made reference to a couple of mailings the Nebraska Republican Party issued during Fahleson’s time as chairman. One highlighted Republican senators who voted against the party position on issues before the officially non-partisan Unicameral. The other was a memo to Republican members in the Unicameral, urging them to only vote for Republicans as committee chairmen.
“Look, we’re approving him for the Fair Board. This isn’t the Chief Justice of the Nebraska Supreme Court, right? The guy is going to run the midway out in Grand Island. I get that. And it’s largely ceremonial perhaps, but in the end it is about the institution,” Fahleson said. “This is somebody that crossed the line, in my opinion.”
Sen. Scott Lautenbaugh of Omaha told colleagues to put their partisan feelings aside and allow Fahleson to serve.
“We can agree that we’re non-partisans. We can all agree that we’re thin, too, for all the good it does us,” Lautenbaugh joked. “But, this is an episode that needs to end the right way. Mr. Fahleson had a job to do and he did it.”