Nebraska Gov. Pillen appoints replacement for outgoing conservative lawmaker

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Republican Gov. Jim Pillen named a former prosecutor Thursday as the newest member of the Nebraska Legislature, which has been largely hamstrung by progressive lawmakers who are filibustering every bill before the body this session.

Carolyn Bosn, of Lincoln, will replace Lincoln Sen. Suzanne Geist, who announced a day earlier that she is stepping down, effective midnight Thursday, to focus on her race for mayor of Lincoln. Bosn promised at a news conference that she would carry on Geist’s conservative positions on everything from cutting taxes to supporting new proposed limits on abortion access.

‘I believe that life begins at conception,’ she said when asked whether she would support the proposed ban.

Bosn’s connections to the top executives in the state run deep. She grew up in Columbus, where her family was close with Pillen’s. The governor said Thursday he’d known Bosn since she was a child. Bosn also worked as the deputy county attorney in Lancaster County from 2010 to 2017 under then-County Attorney Joe Kelly, who is now the state’s lieutenant governor. She left Kelly’s office in 2017 to become a stay-at-home mother to her four children.

Pillen has faced criticism from progressive lawmakers for not taking applications before filling the seat, as has been tradition. Omaha Sen. Machaela Cavanaugh — who has led the weekslong effort to filibuster every bill before the Legislature this session to protest a bill to ban gender-affirming care in minors — said the hasty appointment lacked transparency.

‘He’s purely plucking someone out of his roster and putting them in the seat without ever going through the perfunctory motions of saying, ‘The people of District 25, submit your names if you would like to serve,’’ Cavanaugh said. ‘It reeks of cronyism. Reeks. I don’t know why you would put that kind of stink on the person you’re going to appoint.’

Pillen said he moved quickly to fill the seat to ensure conservatives have enough votes to push through an agenda that mirrors those in other Republican-led states this year. In Nebraska, that includes several controversial bills that would target transgender people, further restrict access to abortion and drastically reshape public education.

Because 33 votes are needed to stop debate on a bill before it can advance, conservatives need every vote they can get in the officially nonpartisan Legislature. There are currently 32 registered Republicans in the 49-member body and 17 registered Democrats.

Pillen said Thursday that he began honing a list of potential candidates before he was even elected governor last November, when Geist announced her mayoral run in September. He began interviewing candidates from that list last week, he said. He brushed off criticism of his process.

‘No matter what decisions you make, people are going to criticize that,’ he said.

Bosn worked in five Nebraska county prosecutor offices as a clerk and attorney after graduating from law school at Creighton University in Omaha. She currently works as an adjunct professor in the University of Nebraska College of Law and coaches the law school’s trial team.

‘As a senator, I promise to listen, to learn and to lead in this new responsibility,’ she said.

Bosn will finish out the four-year term, which runs through the end of 2024, and said she would seek election to the seat next year.

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