Bereuter to Make Exit in August

Posted February 10, 2004 at 6:26pm

Rep. Doug Bereuter (R-Neb.) will resign from Congress on Aug. 31 to take over as president of the Asia Foundation, a nongovernmental organization aimed at encouraging economic and governmental development in the Far East.

Bereuter announced in December that he would retire from the 1st district seat but said he revisited that decision after becoming a finalist for the Asia Foundation post.

“The job opened at approximately the right time,” said Bereuter. “It is time to seek other challenges and opportunities.”

Bereuter said his resignation will not spark a special election to replace him, as he will leave just two months before the Nov. 2 election.

“At that late date a special election will not make sense and [Republican Gov. Mike Johanns] will not call one,” said Bereuter. “I would not put my district and the state’s taxpayers through a special election.”

Johanns’ office would not confirm that fact, but even Democrats conceded a special election is unlikely. Nebraska state law is vague on the matter.

Already two special elections are on the docket in the first six months of 2004.

Former State Attorney General Ben Chandler (D) and state Sen. Alice Forgy Kerr (R) will square off next Tuesday in Kentucky’s 6th district; the second special will be held June 1 for South Dakota’s at-large seat.

As for his official legislative business, Bereuter said that he had “consulted carefully” with the Committee of Standards on Official Conduct about how he should proceed in the remaining months of his career. Bereuter chairs the International Relations subcommittee on Europe.

While he plans to recuse himself from issues relating directly to the Asia Foundation, Bereuter does not plan to abstain on votes regarding overall appropriations bills. Bereuter said he will not lobby any of his colleagues, however, in the time he has remaining.

Bereuter’s decision looks to have little effect on the Republican primary under way to replace him.

Curt Bromm (R), a state Senator and Speaker of the state’s unicameral Legislature, is leading the way in that contest, although former Lincoln City Council Member Jeff Fortenberry, Nebraska Cattlemen’s Association member Greg Ruehle and photographer Andy Ringsmuth are also running for the GOP nod. Bush administration official Tim Trysla is contemplating a bid.

Many of the other big-name GOPers who looked at the race have taken a pass, including state Auditor Kate Witek, who bowed out of the race last week.

Bereuter endorsed Bromm the day he announced his retirement and said nothing has changed since then.

“He has substantial experience as a legislator,” said Bereuter, noting that Bromm is the only legislative leader in the country elected by secret ballot by both Democrats and Republicans.

Bereuter recently sent a direct-mail fundraising letter to his past supporters on behalf of Bromm.

“I would like you to get to know Curt Bromm, to consider volunteering for his campaign and to contribute to the ‘Curt Bromm for Congress’ campaign,” Bereuter wrote.

Bromm has not yet filed a financial report with the Federal Election Commission.

Three Democrats are in the race: state Sen. Matt Connealy, attorney Janet Stewart and businessman Phil Chase.

They are not given a serious chance because of the seat’s strong Republican bent. President Bush would have won 59 percent there in 2000, and Republicans have held the seat since 1964.

Bereuter’s decision to accept the Asia Foundation position signals the end of his political career, which began in the Nebraska state Legislature in 1974. Four years later he was elected to his Congressional seat.

“I will no longer be involved in partisan politics after September 1,” he said Tuesday. “I will never run for partisan office again.”