BY Randy DeSoto, The Western JournalJanuary 10, 2023
1 year ago

Anti-Trump GOP Member Abandons Senate Seat Midterm, Leaving Key Opening for Special Election

GOP Sen. Ben Sasse of Nebraska officially vacated his seat in Congress on Sunday to take a position as president of the University of Florida.

Sasse was among the seven Republican senators who voted to convict former President Donald Trump of inciting the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol incursion in his second impeachment trial.

The former lawmaker, who resigned two years into his second term, recognizes his opposition to Trump at various points in the Republican's presidency likely will be what he's most remembered for.

"Sasse never endorsed Trump when he first ran in 2016. In fact, both times Trump was on the ballot, Sasse says he wrote in the name of Trump running mate Mike Pence instead," the Omaha World-Herald reported.

Sasse did not vote to convict Trump in the first impeachment trial in early 2020, related to a July 2019 phone call with Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. The then-senator noted that Ukraine ultimately received its military aid without opening an investigation into Joe Biden and son Hunter's dealings in the country, as Trump had requested.

The incoming UF president took some parting shots at Trump in his World-Herald interview, saying the 45th president is a "needy and desperate" person.

“I’m just sad for him as a human because obviously there’s a lot of complicated stuff going on in that soul,” Sasse said.

“Just at a human level, I’m sad for him to be that needy and desperate. But at a policy level, I always loved that he kept his word on the judges. ... And so we got to work closely on judges.”

Sasse voted with Trump 85 percent of the time, according to the World-Herald.

Following his vote to impeach Trump, the Nebraska Republican Party stopped short of censuring him but passed a resolution critical of the senator.

Its February 2021 resolution concluded, “Now, therefore, be it resolved that the Nebraska Republican Party Central Committee expresses its deep disappointment and sadness with respect to the service of Senator Ben Sasse and calls for an immediate readjustment whereby he represents the people of Nebraska to Washington and not Washington to the people of Nebraska and stands rebuked.”

According to CNN, Sasse was president of Midland University -- a private Lutheran liberal arts college with about 1,600 students in Fremont, Nebraska -- prior to his election to the Senate in 2014.

The Nebraskan has an impressive academic background, graduating from Harvard University and earning a Ph.D. in American history from Yale.

Sasse told the World-Herald he has been "pursued by a lot of universities" in recent years and declined all the offers, but the Florida spot was too good to pass up.

UF has an enrollment of over 60,000 students.

“South Florida is like a giant blank canvas,” he said. “And so I’m very excited about a lot of the new stuff that we’re going to build.”

It's not clear what he was referring to. UF's campus is in the city of Gainesville in northern Florida.

Sasse's departure from the Senate will not change its balance of power, where the Democrats hold a 51-49 edge.

Freshly sworn-in Nebraska GOP Gov. Jim Pillen has promised to appoint a replacement by the time the Senate reconvenes on Jan. 23. Whoever is chosen will serve for two years, with a special election in November 2024 determining who will complete Sasse's term.

[firefly_poll]

Former Republican Gov. Pete Ricketts, whom Pillen replaced last week, is seen as a leading candidate.

Trump appears to have a mixed relationship with Ricketts.

The former president called the then-governor a RINO for campaigning for Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp's re-election in May 2022.

Ricketts also supported Pillen over Trump's pick in the Nebraska governor's race, Charles Herbster.

The Ricketts family, owners of the Chicago Cubs, have spent money both for and against Trump's presidential runs.

This article appeared originally on The Western Journal.

Written by: Randy DeSoto, The Western Journal

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