Senators: Ricketts lets political party trump principle

May 30, 2016, 4:40 a.m. ·


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A bipartisan group of 13 Nebraska state senators is criticizing Gov. Pete Ricketts for, in their view, letting political party trump principal.

At the Nebraska Republican Party state convention two weeks ago, Ricketts criticized by name registered Republicans in the officially nonpartisan Legislature who did not side with him or the party on some important issues. Ricketts said it’s important to elect what he called “platform Republicans.”

The Nebraska Republican Party platform, supports the death penalty and open elections for legislative leadership, and opposes gas tax increases and benefits for illegal aliens. The Legislature and many of its registered Republicans, have gone against those positions since Ricketts became governor.

The senators’ statement released Monday points out the Nebraska Constitution requires legislators be nominated and elected without any indication of party affiliation. The statement says “Governor Ricketts believes political party trumps principal (sic),” adding “We support the Nebraska Constitution and not any particular party.”

Sen. Mike Gloor of Grand Island was one of 5 registered Republicans who signed the statement. Gloor said governors, regardless of party, are usually seen as head of that party for the state. “If we’re all supposed to fall in line behind that party’s orientation, then we’re dummying up that unicameral relationship where we should be making decisions that we think are in the best interest of Nebraska and Nebraskans overall,” Gloor said.

Sen. Burke Harr of Omaha, one of seven registered Democrats who signed the statement, along with independent Sen. Ernie Chambers, said Ricketts’ attitude contradicts what senators’ role should be. “These individual senators, whether they be Republican or not, are voted for by their people, not by the governor, and their duty is to the people, not to the party or to the governor,” Harr said.

Sen. Paul Schumacher of Columbus, who was erroneously listed as supporting the statement, said he was withholding judgment because of the partisan nature of the gathering in which Ricketts made his statement.

Responding to the senators Monday evening, a spokesman for Ricketts issued the following statement:

"Governor Ricketts respects the separation of powers delineated in the constitution. It is appropriate in a public forum for the Governor, or anyone else, to point out the public votes cast by legislators. The collective will of the voters is greater than the will of any elected official."