Pete Ricketts

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Pete Ricketts
Pete Ricketts by Gage Skidmore.jpg
United States Senator
from Nebraska
Assumed office
January 23, 2023
Serving with Deb Fischer
Appointed byJim Pillen
Preceded byBen Sasse
40th Governor of Nebraska
In office
January 8, 2015 – January 5, 2023
LieutenantMike Foley
Preceded byDave Heineman
Succeeded byJim Pillen
Chair of the Republican Governors Association
In office
November 19, 2021 – November 17, 2022
Serving with Doug Ducey
Preceded byDoug Ducey
Succeeded byKim Reynolds
In office
November 29, 2018 – November 21, 2019
Preceded byBill Haslam
Succeeded byGreg Abbott
Personal details
Born
John Peter Ricketts

(1964-08-19) August 19, 1964 (age 58)
Nebraska City, Nebraska, U.S.
Political partyRepublican
Spouse
Susanne Shore
(m. 1997)
Children3
ParentJoe Ricketts (father)
RelativesThomas S. Ricketts (brother)
Laura Ricketts (sister)
Todd Ricketts (brother)
EducationUniversity of Chicago (BA, MBA)
WebsiteSenate website

John Peter Ricketts (born August 19, 1964) is an American businessman and politician who has served as the junior United States senator from Nebraska since 2023.[1] A member of the Republican Party, he served as the 40th governor of Nebraska from 2015 to 2023.

Ricketts is the son of Joe Ricketts, founder of TD Ameritrade. He is also, with other family members, a part owner of Major League Baseball's Chicago Cubs.[2] Ricketts unsuccessfully ran for the U.S. Senate in 2006, losing to incumbent Ben Nelson. He ran for governor of Nebraska in 2014, and after narrowly winning the six-way Republican primary, defeated Democratic Party nominee Chuck Hassebrook, 57% to 39%. He was reelected in 2018, defeating Democratic nominee Bob Krist, 59% to 41%.

Ricketts was term limited in 2022 as the Constitution of Nebraska prohibits governors from serving more than two consecutive terms. He was succeeded in 2023 by Jim Pillen. Shortly after, Pillen appointed Ricketts to the U.S. Senate to fill the vacancy left by the resignation of Ben Sasse.[3] Ricketts is seeking election to complete Sasse's term in the 2024 special election and has announced he intends to seek a full six-year term in 2026.[1][4]

Early life[edit]

Ricketts was born in Nebraska City on August 19, 1964, the oldest of four children of Joe Ricketts and Marlene (Volkmer) Ricketts. The family later moved to Omaha. Joe Ricketts founded First Omaha Securities in 1975, one of the first discount stockbrokers in the United States. It prospered, changing its name to Ameritrade, going public in 1997, and changing its name to TD Ameritrade after acquiring TD Waterhouse in 2006.[5][6][7][8] Marlene was a teacher.

Ricketts and his siblings, Tom, Laura, and Todd, all attended Westside High School in Omaha, from which Ricketts graduated in 1982. He attended the University of Chicago, receiving a BA in biology in 1986 and an MBA in marketing and finance in 1991.[5][6][7][9][10]

Business career[edit]

After completing graduate school, Ricketts returned to Omaha. He worked for the Union Pacific Railroad for a year, then as a salesman for a Chicago environmental consultant. In 1993, he went to work for his father's business, initially in the call center for a few months, and subsequently appointed by his father to a number of executive positions, ultimately becoming the company's chief operating officer during his father's tenure as CEO. In a 2006 report, he stated his net worth at between $45 million and $50 million.[11][12][13]

Ricketts in 2013

In 1997, Ricketts married Susanne Shore. A native of Garden City, Kansas, Shore grew up in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and earned a bachelor's degree in English and then an MBA from Oklahoma State University. After a stint working for the dean of students at the University of South Dakota, she came to Omaha to complete a one-year course in nursing at Creighton University. At the time of her marriage to Ricketts, she was working as a nurse at St. Joseph's Hospital in Omaha. Ricketts and Shore have three children.[14][15]

In 2006, Ricketts left Ameritrade to run for the U.S. Senate. After his loss to incumbent Ben Nelson, he returned to the company's board, remaining until the Ricketts family relinquished its board seats in 2016.[12][16]

In 2007, Ricketts co-founded, and became director and president of the Platte Institute for Economic Research, which he called a "free market think tank",[17] and which Nebraska newspapers have called "conservative".[12][18] He resigned from the organization in 2013 to concentrate on his 2014 gubernatorial campaign. From 2007 to 2012, Ricketts was a national committeeman for the Republican National Committee; from 2007 to 2013, he was a trustee of the American Enterprise Institute.[18][19]

Sports[edit]

In 2009, the Ricketts family trust bought the Chicago Cubs of Major League Baseball (MLB) from Tribune Media. Ricketts and his siblings hold four of the five seats on the team's board of directors

World Series champion[edit]

As part owner of the Cubs, Ricketts has a 2016 World Series title to his credit, as they won the championship that year, defeating the Cleveland Indians.[2][6][20]

Governor of Nebraska[edit]

Ricketts campaigning for governor with a crowd of supporters, July 2014

Elections[edit]

2014[edit]

In the 2014 election, Ricketts ran for the Nebraska governorship. The incumbent, Dave Heineman, was barred by Nebraska's term-limits law from running for reelection.[21] Two candidates considered strong contenders for the Republican nomination withdrew by early 2013: lieutenant governor Rick Sheehy, who was embroiled in a scandal; and Speaker of the Legislature Mike Flood, whose wife had been diagnosed with cancer.[22] Ricketts officially joined the race in September 2013, at which point he and state auditor Mike Foley were regarded as early front-runners in a race that also included state senators Charlie Janssen, Beau McCoy, and Tom Carlson.[23] In February 2014, Janssen withdrew,[24] and state attorney general Jon Bruning declared his candidacy. Despite his late entrance, Bruning supplanted Ricketts as the perceived front-runner.[25]

Ricketts won the May 2014 primary with 26.6% of the vote. Bruning received 25.5%; McCoy, 20.9%; Foley, 19.2%; Carlson, 4.1%; and Omaha attorney Bryan Slone, 3.7%.[26] In the general election, Ricketts faced Chuck Hassebrook, who had run unopposed for the Democratic nomination. Hassebrook was a former member of the University of Nebraska Board of Regents, and former director of the Center for Rural Affairs, which calls itself "a leading nonprofit organization with a national reputation for progressive rural advocacy and policy work".[27][28] Ricketts advocated tax reductions; Hassebrook argued that Ricketts's proposed cuts would primarily benefit the rich and deprive the state of funds for what he called needed public services. Ricketts opposed the proposed expansion of Medicaid under the provisions of the 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act; Hassebrook favored the expansion. Ricketts opposed an increase in the state's minimum wage; Hassebrook supported it.[27]

Over the course of the general-election campaign, Ricketts outspent Hassebrook by a considerable margin. In the last spending report filed before the election, he stated that he had loaned his campaign $930,000, and that the organization had spent about $6.0 million. Hassebrook reported expenditures of slightly more than $2.5 million.[29]

In the general election, Ricketts received 57.1% of the vote to Hassebrook's 39.2%. Libertarian Mark G. Elworth Jr. received 3.5%, and write-in votes accounted for 0.1%.[30]

2018[edit]

On June 5, 2017, Ricketts announced his candidacy for reelection. During his speech, he said "lowering property taxes" would be his main concern if he were reelected. Ricketts also asked Nebraskans to "rehire" Lieutenant Governor Mike Foley.[31] Ricketts was reelected on November 6 with 59.0%[32] of the vote.

Tenure[edit]

Ricketts was inaugurated as the 40th governor of Nebraska at the Nebraska State Capitol on January 8, 2015.[33][34][35]

2015 session[edit]

Among the "most significant"[36] actions the legislature took in its 2015 session were three bills that passed over Ricketts's veto. LB268 repealed the state's death penalty; LB623 reversed the state's previous policy of denying driver's licenses to people who were living illegally in the U.S. after being brought to the country as children, and who had been granted exemption from deportation under the Barack Obama administration's Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program; and LB610 increased the tax on gasoline to pay for repairs to roads and bridges.[36][37][38]

After Ricketts's veto of the death-penalty repeal was overridden, capital-punishment proponents launched a petition drive to reverse the legislature's action. Their efforts gathered enough signatures to suspend the repeal until a public vote could be held. Capital-punishment opponents then filed a lawsuit arguing that the petition should be invalidated on the grounds that Ricketts, who had contributed $200,000 to the campaign, was "the primary initiating force" for the petition drive and should have been included in the list of sponsors required by Nebraska law.[39][40] In February 2016, a Lancaster County district judge dismissed the lawsuit, ruling that Ricketts's financial support of the petition effort did not ipso facto make him a sponsor.[41][42][43] The plaintiffs appealed the issue to the Nebraska Supreme Court, which upheld the district court's dismissal.[44][45] The referendum was held in the 2016 general election and the death penalty was retained with 61.2% of the vote.[46][47]

2016 session[edit]

In its 2016 session, the legislature passed three bills that Ricketts vetoed. LB580 would have created an independent commission of citizens to draw new district maps following censuses; supporters described it as an attempt to depoliticize the redistricting process, while Ricketts maintained that the bill delegated the legislature's constitutional duty of redistricting to "an unelected and unaccountable board". The bill's sponsor, John Murante, opted not to seek an override of the veto.[48][49][50] A second vetoed bill, LB935, would have changed state audit procedures; it passed by a margin of 37–8, with 4 present and not voting. The bill was withdrawn without an attempt to override the veto; the state auditor agreed to work with Ricketts on a new version for the next year's session.[48][51] A third bill, LB947, made DACA beneficiaries eligible for commercial and professional licenses in Nebraska. The bill passed the legislature on a vote of 33–11–5; the veto override passed 31–13–5.[52][53]

At the 2016 Republican state convention, Ricketts denounced several legislators who had failed to support his and the party's positions on various bills, and called for the election of more "platform Republicans" to the officially nonpartisan legislature. In response to this, 13 legislators, including five registered Republicans, released a statement in which they accused Ricketts of placing partisanship above principle. One of the signers of the statement, Laura Ebke, changed her registration from Republican to Libertarian shortly thereafter, citing Ricketts's speech as one of the factors that drove her to make the change.[54][55][56]

2017 session[edit]

In its 2017 session, the Ricketts administration merged two agencies. The Department of Transportation was formed from the merging of the Department of Roads and Department of Aeronautics. This merger was led by Senator Friesen. Senator Murante led the merger of the Nebraska Department of Veterans' Affairs and the Division of Veterans' Homes into the Nebraska Department of Veterans' Affairs. Ricketts signed both merger bills into law in the spring of 2017.[citation needed]

Ricketts signed various bills designed to strengthen Nebraska communities. LB 518 created various grants to counties to construct workforce housing. The legislature also passed 2 anti-abortion bills, the first in his tenure. LB46 created a "Choose Life" license plate, and LB506 provided information about perinatal hospice care to pregnant women diagnosed with a lethal fetal anomaly.[citation needed]

2018 session[edit]

In the start of the 2018 to 2019 biannual session, Ricketts highlighted various bills as his key priorities. In 2018, he signed LB 1040, which creates commemorative certificates of nonviable birth for miscarriages. Ricketts said this bill "affirms the pre-born baby's dignity, [and] it also provides closure to mothers, fathers, and families who are grappling with the pain and heartache of losing a child." Ricketts also signed various property and tax relief bills during the session. He vetoed a notable bill, LB350, which would have allowed felons to petition a court to set aside their convictions after serving their sentences.[57] Ricketts said, "This bill sends the wrong message to victims of crime and society. It represents poor public policy."[citation needed]

2019 session[edit]

During the legislature's 2019 session, Ricketts approved various budgets and tax cuts. LB 103 stopped automatic property tax increases. Ricketts also spearheaded the project to increase the Property Tax Credit Relief Fund by $51 million for a total of $550 million in direct property tax relief from 2019 to 2021. He merged two state agencies, the Department of Environment and the Department of Energy, into one, the Nebraska Department of Environment and Energy.[citation needed]

2020 session[edit]

In 2020, Ricketts signed numerous laws passed by the legislature, including property and veterans tax relief bills, dismemberment abortion bans, and flood and pandemic relief. In 2020, Ricketts made some workforce reforms, providing a new partnership between Peru State College and the Nebraska Department of Corrections, to provide a path for students to go from the classroom into the corrections workforce. He also signed an infrastructure bill, funding repair of the Gering-Fort Laramie Irrigation Canal after it collapsed in 2019.[citation needed]

COVID-19 pandemic

In June 2020, Ricketts threatened to withhold $100 million in federal COVID-19 relief if local governments in Nebraska required people who entered courthouses and other local government offices to wear face masks.[58] Health experts and authorities had recommended face masks as an effective way to halt the virus's spread.[58]

In October 2021, Ricketts ordered Nebraska state agencies not to comply with the federal government's vaccine requirements for employees.[59][60]

2021 session[edit]

Ricketts called the 2021 session "historic", as it fulfilled multiple priorities he highlighted in his January 2021 State of the State address. These included property and veterans tax relief, broadband infrastructure, and locking in the state's budget. The session limited budget growth to 2.4% annually. Ricketts's veterans tax relief program gave Nebraska veterans a 100% exemption on military retirement benefits. Ricketts signed legislation to support military spouses licensed in another state to obtain teaching permits after moving to Nebraska. He signed into law a bill that gives private schools $3 million in funding for textbook loans and $1 billion to support public K-12 education. Ricketts also passed career scholarship reform, giving public, private, and community colleges and universities state scholarship support.[citation needed]

2022 session[edit]

After the 2022 legislative session, Ricketts praised the senators for passing legislation on his priorities. The legislature authorized construction of a canal to protect Nebraska's legal entitlement to South Platte River flowing into the state from Colorado. Ricketts also signed bills to further develop Nebraska's water infrastructure, construct new marinas at Lake McConaughy and Lewis and Clark Lake, and create a 3,600-acre reservoir between Lincoln and Omaha.[citation needed]

U.S. Senate[edit]

2006 election[edit]

Ricketts was the 2006 Republican nominee for the U.S. Senate seat held by Democrat Ben Nelson. His opponents in the primary were former Nebraska Attorney General Don Stenberg and former state Republican chairman David Kramer. Ricketts spent nearly $5 million of his own money, outspending his opponents 10–1 in winning the nomination.[61]

Ricketts received some high-profile campaign assistance, most notably from President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney. Bush appeared at a campaign rally for Ricketts on November 5, 2006, just days before the election, in Grand Island, Nebraska.

Ricketts ran on a conservative platform, emphasizing fiscal responsibility,[62] immigration reform,[63] and agriculture,[64] as well as championing a socially conservative platform opposing same-sex marriage[65] and abortion.[66] In all, he contributed $11,302,078 of his own money to his campaign, triggering the Millionaire's Amendment, which allowed his opponent to raise larger amounts from each donor.[67][68] He spent more money than any Senate candidate in Nebraska history,[69] but lost to Nelson by a margin of 36%–64%.[70]

Appointment[edit]

On January 8, 2023, U.S. Senator Ben Sasse resigned to become president of the University of Florida.[71] On January 12, Jim Pillen, who had succeeded Ricketts as governor one week earlier, appointed Ricketts to the Senate. Ricketts's appointment was controversial, as he had financially supported Pillen's 2022 gubernatorial campaign. Pillen denied this had any role in his decision to appoint Ricketts.[3] Upon his appointment to the Senate, Ricketts announced that he would run in the 2024 special election to serve the remaining two years of Sasse's term.[72]

Tenure[edit]

Ricketts was sworn in as Nebraska's junior U.S. senator by Vice President Kamala Harris on January 23, 2023.[72][73]

Political positions[edit]

Abortion[edit]

Ricketts supports a total ban of abortion, with no exceptions for rape or incest.[74]

Affirmative action[edit]

Before becoming governor, Ricketts supported an initiative to ban affirmative action in Nebraska, donating $15,000 to a group behind the effort.[75]

Critical race theory[edit]

In 2021, Ricketts said he opposed critical race theory. Asked to explain what critical race theory was, Ricketts said it was "one that really starts creating those divisions between us about defining who we are based on race and that sort of thing and really not about how to bring us together as Americans rather than—and dividing us and also having a lot of very socialist-type ideas about how that would be implemented in our state." Ricketts also called it "Marxist" and "really un-American."[76]

Death penalty[edit]

Ricketts supports the death penalty. In 2015, he vetoed a bill to abolish capital punishment in Nebraska, but the legislature overrode his veto. In 2016, Ricketts spent part of his family fortune to finance a referendum to reinstate capital punishment in the state. The referendum passed, and in 2018 the state executed Carey Dean Moore, the first inmate put to death in the state in 21 years. Ricketts, a Catholic, rebuffed calls from the Catholic Church to halt executions.[77][78]

Donald Trump[edit]

Ricketts criticized the impeachment of Donald Trump over his request that Ukraine start an investigation into his political rival Joe Biden. Ricketts said the impeachment proceedings were a "partisan impeachment parade" and praised the Senate for acquitting Trump.[79]

Cannabis[edit]

Ricketts opposes legalization of medicinal cannabis. In 2019, he said that its "medicinal value has not been tested", and cited studies suggesting that cannabis adversely affects brain functions. He also pointed to overdoses of the synthetic cannabinoid K2 as a "reminder of how dangerous cannabis can be".[80] In 2021, while the Nebraska legislature was contemplating legalizing medical cannabis, he claimed, "If you legalize marijuana, you’re gonna kill your kids. That’s what the data shows from around the country."[81]

Environment[edit]

Ricketts opposed the Obama administration's Clean Power Plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.[82] He supported the Keystone XL Pipeline, saying it would "create jobs here in Nebraska, lots of tax revenues here in Nebraska, of course help us become less dependent on foreign oil."[83]

In 2021, Ricketts said he opposed a proposal by President Joe Biden to preserve 30% of the nation's land and water by 2030, calling it a "radical climate agenda."[84]

Political contributions[edit]

In July 2022, Ricketts contributed $250,000 to a political action committee created to oppose the U.S. Senate campaign of Eric Greitens in advance of Missouri's August primary election.[85]

Personal life[edit]

Ricketts is a Roman Catholic. He is a member of the Knights of Columbus and a Knight of the Holy Sepulchre.[19]

Electoral history[edit]

2006 election[edit]

2006 U.S. Senate primary election results, Nebraska[86]
Party Candidate Votes %
Republican Pete Ricketts 129,643 48.14
Republican Don Stenberg 96,496 35.83
Republican David J. Kramer 43,185 16.03
Total votes 269,324 100.00
2006 United States Senate election in Nebraska[87]
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Democratic Ben Nelson (incumbent) 378,388 63.88% +12.88%
Republican Pete Ricketts 213,928 36.12% -12.70%
Total votes 590,961 100.00% N/A
Democratic hold

2014 election[edit]

Nebraska gubernatorial Republican primary, 2014[88]
Party Candidate Votes %
Republican Pete Ricketts 57,936 26.48
Republican Jon Bruning 55,761 25.49
Republican Beau McCoy 45,820 20.94
Republican Mike Foley 42,039 19.22
Republican Tom Carlson 9,036 4.13
Republican Bryan Slone 8,179 3.74
Total votes 218,771 100
2014 Nebraska gubernatorial election[89]
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Republican Pete Ricketts 308,751 57.15% -16.75%
Democratic Chuck Hassebrook 211,905 39.23% +13.13%
Libertarian Mark Elworth 19,001 3.52% N/A
N/A Write-ins 545 0.10% N/A
Total votes 540,202 100.0% N/A
Republican hold

2018 election[edit]

Nebraska gubernatorial Republican primary, 2018
Party Candidate Votes %
Republican Pete Ricketts (incumbent) 138,292 81.42
Republican Krystal Gabel 31,568 18.58
Total votes 169,860 100.00
2018 Nebraska gubernatorial election[90]
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Republican Pete Ricketts (incumbent) 411,812 59.00% +1.85%
Democratic Bob Krist 286,169 41.00% +1.77%
Total votes 697,981 100.00% N/A
Republican hold

References[edit]

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External links[edit]

Party political offices
Preceded by Republican nominee for U.S. Senator from Nebraska
(Class 1)

2006
Succeeded by
Preceded by Republican nominee for Governor of Nebraska
2014, 2018
Succeeded by
Preceded by Chair of the Republican Governors Association
2018–2019
Succeeded by
Preceded by Chair of the Republican Governors Association
2021–2022
Served alongside: Doug Ducey
Succeeded by
Political offices
Preceded by Governor of Nebraska
2015–2023
Succeeded by
U.S. Senate
Preceded by U.S. Senator (Class 2) from Nebraska
2023–present
Served alongside: Deb Fischer
Incumbent
U.S. order of precedence (ceremonial)
Preceded byas United States Senator from Oklahoma Order of precedence of the United States
as United States Senator from Nebraska

since January 23, 2023
Succeeded by
Preceded by United States senators by seniority
100th
Last