Months after a cybersex scandal first threatened to end his legislative career, and after years of complaints about his behavior in office, Bill Kintner was undone by a tweet.

The embattled state senator and stalwart conservative from Papillion resigned from the Legislature early Wednesday, minutes before fellow senators were scheduled to debate expelling him from office.

"As much as my heart says to fight, my head says it is time to step away from the Legislature," a tearful Kintner told reporters, flanked by his minister, Perry Gauthier, and Speaker Jim Scheer.

He thanked his supporters, staff, family, God and his "Proverbs 31" wife, Lauren, who is chief-policy adviser to Gov. Pete Ricketts. She was not present for the announcement. 

"My wife is one of the finest people I will ever know in my lifetime." Together, Kintner said, they have been through "amazing times and many, many tough challenges."

The resignation is effective Monday, giving him time to clean out his office, but beginning immediately, he'll no longer vote as a senator or take part in any legislative action, Scheer said.

Ricketts will choose a replacement to serve until after the next statewide election in 2018. The District 2 seat includes Cass County, as well as portions of Sarpy and Otoe counties.

Kintner, 56, had remained defiant for months after his use of a state-issued laptop for cybersex with a woman he met online left many constituents, fellow lawmakers and the governor calling for his resignation. 

But a tweet Kintner shared late Sunday — mocking Women's March participants and apparently making light of sexual assault — left even his closest allies showing him the door.

The conservative Legislature Kintner had always wanted, and which was finally in place, ultimately rejected him.

"He did the body a favor. He did the state a favor," Scheer said after the announcement, adding Kintner's resignation took "more courage" than leaving the decision to fellow senators.

In a news release, Ricketts said Kintner did the right thing.

Omaha Sen. Bob Krist, a longtime critic of Kintner who led the push to punish him after the cybersex scandal, called the resignation "honorable and much overdue."

"I feel a lot cleaner," said Sen. Mike Groene of North Platte.

Kintner did not apologize or attempt to explain the tweet Wednesday morning.

He said he was reluctant to resign in the first place because it would "be hailed as a victory to the progressive liberal movement."

"This is not about justice or doing what's right. This is the old adage that might makes right. You have the votes, you can do what you want."

He left the room without taking questions after paraphrasing former President Richard Nixon: "You won't have Bill Kintner to kick around any more."

Outside the Capitol, reaction was mixed.

"The Women's March just took down their first politician," Nebraska Democratic Party Chairwoman Jane Kleeb said in a news release.

Kleeb said the party "looks forward to electing a candidate who stands up for women and working-class families."

Doug Kagan, president of the conservative group Nebraska Taxpayers for Freedom, said Kintner's colleagues acceded to a double standard of political correctness by forcing him from office.

"Incendiary, insulting remarks" by Omaha Sen. Ernie Chambers routinely go unpunished, Kagan said. "But when Sen. Kintner does a few outlandish things they go after him like hellfire."

Kagan also took issue with Kintner's fellow conservatives in the Legislature.

"They just didn't want to look bad themselves, so they went along with the crowd. I don't think they should have."

He hopes Ricketts appoints a conservative to fill the seat.

The governor's office will accept applications until 5 p.m. Tuesday. Applicants must be at least 21, have lived in the district a year or more and be registered to vote.

Kintner's own legislative career began when he ousted an appointee of then-Gov. Dave Heineman.

Originally from Cincinnati, the longtime political operative and baseball umpire ran against appointee Paul Lambert of Plattsmouth in 2012 and won. He ran again two years later, and would be eligible to seek re-election again in 2018.

Dave Pankonin of Louisville, who held the District 2 legislative seat before Lambert, said he is relieved and thankful Kintner resigned.

“We’re relieved for him and his family, for the Legislature and state. I’m thankful this distraction is over,” Pankonin said.

Kintner's comments and behavior raised eyebrows soon after he took office:

* In 2013, in a Journal Star profile, he described women as the biggest mystery: "No one understands them. They don't even understand themselves."

* In 2014, during a town hall with constituents, the Nebraska City News-Press quoted him as saying some "homosexual bills" may come up in the next session. He also objected to paying for the "bad behavior" of those on social programs and said "women — not men — can live a pretty good life" by making mistakes such as having more children.

* In 2015, he posted a graphic picture of a woman's beheading on his public Facebook page. Less than two weeks later, he repeatedly used a racial slur referring to Mexicans during legislative debate on a bill that lifted Nebraska's ban on issuing driver's licenses to immigrants who illegally entered the United States as children.

* In 2016, then-Speaker of the Legislature Galen Hadley chastised Kintner for a newspaper column in which he likened state senators to monkeys.

That issue was just the start of Kintner's problems that year.

In August, he admitted to using his state laptop for cybersex after the woman he met online convinced him to masturbate on live video, then tried to extort money from him.

The Nebraska Accountability and Disclosure Commission fined him $1,000, and calls for his removal from office never stopped.

Until Wednesday.

Reach the writer at 402-473-7234 or zpluhacek@journalstar.com.

On Twitter @zachami. The Plattsmouth Journal contributed to this story.

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Assistant city editor

Zach Pluhacek is an assistant city editor.

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