Gibbons, LaHood Eyeing Intel Chairmanship

Posted January 2, 2004 at 5:48pm

In the three weeks since Rep. Doug Bereuter (R) announced that he would retire from the House after this Congress, candidates have stepped forward seeking both to succeed him in Nebraska’s 1st district seat and to replace him as the presumptive heir to the Intelligence Committee gavel.

Bereuter announced Dec. 16 that he would not run for a 14th term in the House, saying that he wanted “to seek other challenges and opportunities.” He has not yet revealed his future career plans, though he has in the past expressed an interest in the vacant presidency of the University of Nebraska.

On Capitol Hill, Bereuter is Intelligence vice chairman and had been expected to take over the top post in the 109th Congress. Current Chairman Porter Goss (R-Fla.) is retiring.

(Bereuter had been expected to chair the panel for this Congress until Goss postponed his retirement for two years.)

Instead, the highly-prized, Speaker-appointed position will now fall to another veteran GOP lawmaker. Already, two current Intelligence members — Reps. Ray LaHood (Ill.) and Jim Gibbons (Nev.) — have expressed interest in the post.

Gibbons and LaHood are currently fourth and fifth, respectively, on the Intelligence panel GOP roster. Rep. Sherwood Boehlert (N.Y.) is third, but he already holds the Science Committee gavel.

In order to win the chairmanship, Gibbons would first need to obtain a waiver to remain on the committee. House rules prevent lawmakers from sitting on Intelligence for more than four out of six consecutive Congresses. Gibbons is now in his eighth year on the panel, while LaHood is in his fifth.

Gibbons, a Gulf War veteran, had been courted to challenge Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.) this year but elected to run again for his House seat instead. He is reportedly considering a run for governor in 2006.

LaHood is known for his good relationships on both sides of the aisle and could benefit from his close ties to his fellow Illinoisan, Speaker Dennis Hastert (R).

Meanwhile, in the race to replace Bereuter in the 1st district, a lengthy list of Republican names have been floated as potential candidates while two Democrats have already entered the race.

State Sen. Curt Bromm (R), whom Bereuter called a worthy successor in the wake of his retirement announcement, has said he plans to run.

Among the other high profile Republicans mentioned for the open seat are Lt. Gov. Dave Heineman, former Lt. Gov. Dave Maurstad, former Attorney General Don Stenberg, U.S. Attorney Mike Heavican and four state Senators: Dennis Byars, Carol Hudkins, Mick Mines and Roger Wehrbein.

President Bush won 59 percent of the presidential vote in the 1st district in 2000 and Republicans say they are confident that Bereuter’s seat will remain in GOP hands.

Democrats, however, believe that they can make the open-seat race competitive and party insiders are high on the candidacy of state Sen. Matt Connealy (D), who has already filed to run.

Attorney Janet Stewart (D), a vice president at Mutual of Omaha, is also running. Former Lincoln Mayor Don Wesely and state Sens. Chris Beutler and Dianna Schimek are other potential Democrats mentioned.