Top Republican leaders at the Capitol brush aside criticism that conservatives have mounted a takeover of state government.
Legislative Speaker Jim Scheer of Norfolk says conservatives occupying committee chairs simply reflect the ideology of the state. He points out, in most cases, the conservative lawmaker ran unopposed for committee chair.
“So, when we talk about, ‘Oh my God, there was this big wave,’ well, no one ran,” Scheer tells Nebraska Radio Network. “So, if no one runs, what do you expect?”
In one committee chairmanship race, freshman Sen. Joni Albrecht, a Republican, unseated incumbent Democrat Burke Harr for chair of the Business and Labor Committee. Sen. Merv Riepe, a Republican, defeated Sen. Sara Howard, a Democrat, for Health and Human Services Committee chair. Republican Sen. Dan Hughes defeated Democratic Sen. Rick Kolowski for chair of the Natural Resources Committee.
The Nebraska Democratic Party was quick to pounce on the leadership elections. Democrats claimed in a news release, “Gov. Ricketts bought the Nebraska Legislature. After the independent Unicameral last session overrode several vetoes and he did not get his way, Ricketts acted like a spoiled rich kid and bought the Legislature”
Democrats charge Ricketts poured money into legislative races to shape the Unicameral to his liking.
Ricketts rejects the charge, replying he simply supported strong candidates for legislature.
“People who would, frankly, reflect their district and keep their campaign promises,” Ricketts tells Nebraska Radio Network. “Some of those folks got elected; some didn’t. That’s the nature of our system and that’s nothing unusual. Governors all across this country do that the exact same thing.”
AUDIO: Brent Martin reports [:45]