Two dozen apply to fill legislative vacancies
With the gavel set to open the 106th Nebraska Legislature less than a month from now, two dozen candidates have applied to fill a pair of vacancies in the state Unicameral.
The District 1 seat representing Otoe, Johnson, Nemaha, Pawnee and Richardson counties in extreme Southeast Nebraska was vacated when Sen. Dan Watermeier won election to the Public Service Commission in November.
Meanwhile, the District 49 seat stretching across western Sarpy County and including Gretna was also vacated when Sen. John Murante won an unopposed election to the state treasurer’s office.
Gov. Pete Ricketts will get to appoint a replacement in both districts. A spokesman from Ricketts’ office said there is no deadline for making a decision in either district.
As of the Dec. 7 deadline, 10 hopefuls applied for the District 1 seat: Lavern Bartels of Tecumseh; Craig Bolz and Mike Powers of Palmyra; Keith Kollasch of Auburn; Mark Novak of Dawson; Janet A. Palmtag of Syracuse; Colton Schaardt and Dennis Schaardt of Steinauer; Julie Slama of Peru; and Gayle Swisegood of Falls City.
Fourteen people have applied to replace Murante, including: John Brodston, Jennifer Day, David Christensen, Blake Cole, Richard Michael Ferzely, Taylor Hobbie, Carter McCann, Clark S. Ruby, Robert Schaefer and Mark Wayne, all of Omaha; Dustin Kowalewski, Andrew LaGrone, Lorelle Mueting, and Douglas Owen, all of Gretna.
Ricketts could also choose someone who did not apply to replace either Watermeier or Murante.
The future appointees will mark the fourth and fifth senators appointed by the governor.
Ricketts appointed Nicole Fox to the District 7 legislative seat after Jeremy Nordquist resigned in 2015. Fox was later defeated in the 2016 primary election. Tony Vargas now represents the the south Omaha district.
Elmwood banker Rob Clements was tapped by Ricketts in 2017 to fill the legislative seat left open after the resignation of Bill Kintner of Papillion. Clements won a four-year term to the District 2 seat in November’s general election.
And Ricketts appointed Theresa Thibodeau to the District 6 seat of central Omaha following the resignation of Joni Craighead. Thibodeau was defeated in the Nov. 6 election by Machaela Cavanaugh.