Libertarian to Appeal Ruling Allowing GOP Substitution in Nebraska

Mark Elworth Jr.Mark Elworth, Jr., of Omaha, the Libertarian Party’s candidate for governor, said that he plans to appeal a recent ruling allowing the GOP to substitute its candidate for lieutenant governor in Nebraska’s gubernatorial election.

On Wednesday, Lancaster County District Judge Lori Maret dismissed Elworth’s lawsuit challenging Secretary of State John Gale’s decision to allow Republican gubernatorial candidate Pete Ricketts to replace Lt. Gov. Lavon Heidemann’s name with that of two-term State Auditor Mike Foley.

Ricketts made the last-minute substitution on September 9, eight days after the statutory deadline for naming a running mate and immediately after Heidemann, in an emotional press conference, withdrew from the race and resigned as lieutenant governor following allegations of a physical altercation with his own sister.

In seeking a court order to have Heidemann’s name restored to the November ballot, Elworth’s attorney, Elizabeth Eynon-Kokrda, a former adjunct professor at Creighton University School of Law, argued that the Nebraska statute doesn’t give the Secretary of State any discretion regarding the state’s Sept. 1 deadline for gubernatorial candidates to name their running mates.

Nebraska Democrats had grumbled publicly about the substitution, but didn’t initiate a legal challenge.

Elworth, a former member of the Green Party, said that his continuing legal action is an effort to preserve the integrity of the Nebraska electoral process from “obvious abuses of political power.”

“A Republican Party, big, rich, and powerful enough to openly ignore the law when it suits them, no longer represents the voters of this state,” said Elworth. “I’m going to stand up to them. I’m going to do what a little guy can do.”

A Public Policy Polling survey in June showed the 37-year-old Elworth — the first Libertarian candidate for governor in Nebraska history — polling eight percent of the vote in a race where only four percentage points separated Republican Pete Ricketts and Democrat Chuck Hassebrook, the latter of whom enjoys the support of Berkshire Hathaway CEO Warren Buffett and hopes to become the first Democrat to win the governor’s office in the Cornhusker State since Ben Nelson trounced Republican Gene Spence while seeking a second term in 1994.

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