Nebraska Lt. Gov. Heidemann resigns office, ticket

AP News
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Posted: Sep 09, 2014 7:00 PM
Nebraska Lt. Gov. Heidemann resigns office, ticket

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — Nebraska Lt. Gov. Lavon Heidemann resigned from office Tuesday and withdrew from the Republican gubernatorial ticket after a judge granted his sister's request for a domestic abuse protection order.

Heidemann announced his resignation at the Capitol alongside Gov. Dave Heineman. The Elk Creek farmer also stepped down as the running mate of Republican gubernatorial candidate Pete Ricketts, who is looking to replace the term-limited Heineman in January.

Heidemann has said he disagrees with many of the statements made by his sister, which include allegations of assault. But he announced Tuesday that he wouldn't fight to remain in office.

"After much thought, discussion and prayer, I have decided that for the good of my family, for the office of lieutenant governor and for the future of Nebraska, I am resigning today," an emotional Heidemann said at a news conference. He took no questions.

Heineman described Heidemann as an outstanding public official and said this was "a sad day for the state of Nebraska."

Ricketts announced later Tuesday that he had selected Republican State Auditor Mike Foley, a former primary challenger, to replace Heidemann.

"Mike is someone who's principled, conservative and compassionate," Ricketts said at the state party headquarters in Lincoln.

Nebraska Secretary of State John Gale said his office is still reviewing whether Ricketts can switch his running mate on the November ballot and would issue a decision Wednesday.

State law imposes a Sept. 1 deadline for Ricketts to name a running mate. But his campaign's attorneys argue that deadline is trumped by Nebraska's Constitution, which gives candidates the right to decide their running mate.

Vince Powers, chairman of the Nebraska Democratic Party, said placing Foley on the ballot would expose Ricketts to a legal challenge from any Nebraska voter if he wins. Powers said that the state has no legal way to remove Heidemann from the ballot.

Heidemann's sister, Lois Bohling, was granted a protection order Monday after she said in a sworn statement that her brother grabbed her wrists and pushed her out of their mother's bedroom during an August dispute over farmland and their 84-year-old mother's care.

She said Heidemann shouted at her and nearly came over a table at her "like a wild man," after their mother gathered the family in December 2013 to talk about how to disburse their deceased father's property. Thereafter she said she tried to avoid her brother because she was afraid he would hurt her.

Heidemann has not been charged with a crime, though he could face charges if he violates the protection order, which prohibits him from contacting his sister and requires him to stay away from his mother's home in Tecumseh, in southeast Nebraska, when the sister is present.

Ricketts tapped Heidemann to join the GOP ticket in June. Ricketts is running against Democratic hopeful Chuck Hassebrook and his running mate, Jane Raybould.

"I receive this news with a heavy heart," Ricketts said after Heidemann resigned and withdrew. "My prayers continue to be with the Heidemann family at this very difficult time."

Heidemann served eight years as a state senator and was elected to the University of Nebraska Board of Regents shortly before he was chosen for his current post.

In a statement, Hassebrook said voters should consider this incident when deciding whom to support in November.

"Voters will have to decide for themselves what Mr. Ricketts' choice for lieutenant governor says about his judgment," Hassebrook said.

Heineman said Heidemann apologized Monday evening and said he wanted to step down to resolve his family conflicts. Heineman said he never asked Heidemann to resign, though he considered the decision appropriate.

"I don't know a single Nebraskan who would want any family matter like this played out in the public arena," Heineman said. "It's very, very difficult, but that's what happens when you're a public official."

Heineman has about four months left in office before term limits force him to leave. He said he would move quickly to find a new lieutenant governor, but added that it was too early to set forth a timeline.

Heidemann is the second lieutenant governor to resign in as many years. He replaced former Lt. Gov. Rick Sheehy, who abruptly left office in February 2013 after news broke that he had made thousands of calls to women other than his wife on a state cellphone. One woman later acknowledged that she was having an affair with Sheehy while he was in office.