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Don Walton: The year Nebraska had 6 U.S. senators

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A little history.

The appointment of Lt. Gov. Tina Smith to succeed embattled Sen. Al Franken and join Sen. Amy Klobuchar in the U.S. Senate will give Minnesota two women senators along with California, Washington and New Hampshire.

In previous years, both Kansas and Maine have been represented by two women senators.

In 1954, Nebraska also had two women senators, but they didn't serve at exactly the same time.

That was an amazing year in Nebraska and in the history of the United States Senate. Six Nebraskans served in the Senate at one time or another during those 12 months.   

And that's astonishing. 

And there's more: Not only did both of the Nebraska senators who began the year die in office, one of them had been elected to fill the unexpired term of a Nebraska senator (Kenneth Wherry) who died in office in 1951.

Now, hold on, here's the list of Nebraska's 1954 U.S. senators:

Dwight Griswold, who died in April; Hugh Butler, who died in July; Eva Bowring, appointed to continue Griswold's term; Hazel Abel, elected to complete the final two months of Griswold's term; Samuel Reynolds, appointed to continue Butler's term; Roman Hruska, elected to finish Butler's term and launch a Senate career of his own.

Hruska moved into the Senate seat early when Reynolds stepped aside.

In 1954, if you were a Nebraskan and didn't serve at least part of the year in the U.S. Senate, clearly you were nobody. 

* * *

Gov. Pete Ricketts included a seven-question survey in a recent campaign fundraising appeal and it wasn't just about taxes and government spending.

The survey included questions asking recipients whether they are concerned about the campus climate for conservative students at the University of Nebraska and whether they believe that the Nebraska media "gives fair and accurate coverage" to Republican officeholders and candidates.

Recipients also were asked which taxes elected officials should "prioritize for tax relief" and whether the state should act to restrain the growth of local government. 

* * *

And now another federal judgeship is ready to be filled. 

A pending U.S. District Court vacancy in Nebraska is not quite the huge opening represented by a vacancy on the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.  That's where the Republican majority in the Senate understandably has focused its attention as it is rushing nominees through the confirmation procedure.

Following the dash to confirm President Trump's nomination of Steve Grasz of Omaha to a seat on the 8th Circuit court, the process is beginning now to choose a successor to Chief Judge Laurie Smith Camp of Omaha on the U.S. District Court in Nebraska.

Smith Camp has announced her forthcoming transition from active service to senior status effective on Dec. 1, 2018.

Sens. Deb Fischer and Ben Sasse last week launched the process to choose her successor and are seeking applications and recommendations now.

The Democratic Senate victory in Alabama, along with some political forecasts that suggest the 2018 elections might tip the Senate back into the Democratic column, will spur even speedier action by Senate Republicans to fill vacancies on the federal courts.

Federal judges do not confront elections or come with term limits attached.

Even a couple of years of Senate control can have a lasting impact on the nation exercised through the judiciary, particularly now that Senate judicial filibusters have been erased.

* * *

So much for net neutrality, wildlife refuges and protected national land. In the current climate, everything's for sale.

Is there no end to grasping for money and power?

Of course, there is not.

Finishing up

* Former Democratic State Chairman Vince Powers has floated the idea of Dennis Crawford of Lincoln as a potential 2018 Democratic gubernatorial candidate.  That would shift Crawford away from his current bid for 1st District congressman.

* The Legislature's Rules Committee will meet at the Capitol on Tuesday, but any proposed rules changes — including the possibility of reigniting another battle over the current filibuster rule — will wait until a committee hearing on Jan. 4.

*  Abrupt ending to a great upset bid by the Husker basketball team that could have provided them with a signature victory over Kansas, whose return to Lincoln was a welcome sight. Suddenly, at the end, just like that, poof, the air went out of the red balloon. 

Great Husker volleyball victory in Kansas City and another national championship for Nebraska and the premier volleyball coach in the country.  

Reach the writer at 402-473-7248 or dwalton@journalstar.com.

On Twitter @LJSDon.

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