Gov. Pete Ricketts on Aug. 30 endorsed Bruce Bostelman of Brainard for the District 23 legislative seat now held by Sen. Jerry Johnson of Wahoo, marking the second time the governor has pledged his support to the opponent of a state senator who is a Republican.

In announcing the endorsement, the Bostelman campaign noted that Johnson has cast votes to raise the state gas tax, grant driver's licenses to young immigrants who were brought into the country illegally and repeal the death penalty.

All of those bills were enacted despite vetoes cast by Ricketts.

"If elected, Bostelman has promised to oppose tax increases, fight attempts to give public benefits to illegal immigrants and support efforts to retain the death penalty," his campaign stated.

Earlier, Ricketts announced his endorsement of Steve Halloran of Hastings, who is opposing Sen. Les Seiler of Hastings.

Both Bostelman and Halloran are also Republicans who are seeking seats in the non-partisan Legislature; both Johnson and Seiler trailed in May primary election results.

Seiler also supported legislation that Ricketts had opposed, including casting a vote to override the governor's veto of the bill repealing the death penalty.

Johnson did not vote to override the governor's veto after supporting passage of that bill.

Bostelman is "a conservative who will represent the conservative principles of the citizens of Butler, Colfax and Saunders counties," the governor said in a statement released by the Bostelman campaign.

"His real-world experience as a veteran and ag producer will add invaluable perspectives to the Legislature," Ricketts said.

Bostelman said he would work with Ricketts to "provide additional tax relief, protect the 2nd Amendment and advocate for pro-life laws."

Governor seeking more "partisan body"

Reacting to the governor’s endorsement of Bostelman, Johnson said on Aug. 31 that he finds it "frustrating that the governor is trying to throw away my leadership for agriculture" and make the nonpartisan Legislature "more of a partisan body."

Johnson is chairman of the Legislature's Agriculture Committee.

"I have worked with the governor on growing Nebraska agriculture and supported legislation that is good for Nebraska agriculture and the state of Nebraska, especially in my district," he said during a telephone interview responding to the news of the endorsement.

That endorsement represents "overreach by the executive branch," Johnson said.

Both Johnson and Bostelman are Republicans, as is the governor.

In his endorsement, Ricketts said that "we can count on (Bostelman) to oppose illegal immigration, protect public safety and hold the line on taxes."

Johnson has voted to raise the gas tax, grant driver's licenses to young immigrants who were brought into the United States illegally by their parents when they were children, and repeal the death penalty.

Those young immigrants have been accorded legal presence in the U.S., Johnson noted.

As he processed continuing reaction from Nebraskans during the interval between his vote to repeal the death penalty and the subsequent motion to override the governor's veto, Johnson said he decided to vote to sustain the veto and went to Ricketts to inform him of his support.

Johnson said the governor phoned him a week ago to alert him that he would be endorsing his opponent.

"I was disappointed," the senator said.

Johnson said he grew up on a farm and has served six years in city government, including four years as mayor of Wahoo, and four years in the Legislature and provides an experienced voice.

Although he ran second to Bostelman in the May primary election, Johnson said he remains confident that voters in his district "will make the right call for Nebraska agriculture" in November.

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