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Heineman: Farm focus key for new U. of Neb. regent

Published on NewsOK Modified: February 15, 2013 at 7:10 pm •  Published: February 15, 2013

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — Gov. Dave Heineman said Friday that agriculture and college affordability will play key roles in his decision to fill an opening on the University of Nebraska's governing board.

The Republican governor said he'll rely heavily on the advice of his new second-in-command, Lt. Gov. Lavon Heidemann, when he picks a replacement to serve on the university's Board of Regents.

"This regent district, to some extent, is a rural district," Heineman said in an interview. "I certainly want someone who will appreciate and understand rural Nebraska, will have an agricultural focus, and a common-sense fiscal conservative. And then we'll look at a wide variety of issues."

Heineman's decision to name Heidemann as his new lieutenant leaves a key opening on the University of Nebraska Board of Regents. It also has raised concerns among abortion opponents who want to change the university's policies on embryonic stem cell research.

The new regent will represent District 5, which covers a mostly rural expanse of southeast Nebraska.

Heidemann, a former state lawmaker, resigned from his seat on Wednesday after a little more than a month on the board. During his campaign, Heidemann was endorsed by the group Nebraska Right to Life because of his opposition to expanding federal funding for embryonic stem cell research.

He defeated Mike Jones, a David City insurance agent who supported the current regents' policy that allows for the stem cell usage approved by President Barack Obama. Jones said Nebraska's policy should be left to state lawmakers, not the regents.

Jones is a Republican who describes himself as "pro-life," but his position on the university's stem-cell research policy cost him the endorsement of Nebraska Right to Life. Executive director Julie Schmit-Albin said she plans to present Nebraska Right to Life's concerns to the governor.

"Sen. Heidemann's appointment as lieutenant governor means we've lost an advocate on the Board of Regents," Schmit-Albin said. "I'm very glad he's going to be the lieutenant governor. He's a wonderful man. But it does mean that we need to impart to the governor what our experience was in the 2012 election with Sen. Heidemann's opponent."

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