Nebraska's normally low-profile chief executive, Republican Dave Heineman, will be much more visible on the national stage over the course of the next year with his installation as chairman of the National Governors Association during the group's summer meeting in Salt Lake City on Sunday (July 17).
According to the Omaha World-Herald
, Heineman becomes the first Nebraska governor in 60 years
to lead the influential organization, which lobbies the federal government on behalf of the states. Val Peterson last held the position in 1951.
For Heineman -
a conservative Republican who is known in Nebraska for "his preference for McDonald's hamburgers and early bedtimes," according to the World-Herald -
the NGA chairmanship will allow him to showcase his state and raise his own profile through regular meetings with federal officials and interviews with national media. Past chairs of the group include presidents and presidential candidates, including Bill Clinton, Mike Huckabee and Tim Pawlenty.
But Heineman will have to learn the ropes quickly. He assumes leadership of the NGA at a time of extreme partisanship in the nation's capital, with Democrats and Republicans at an impasse over the federal debt and the specter of a national default. Governors from both parties expressed alarm and frustration
over the situation this weekend. Heineman is tasked with representing the 50 governors during a Capitol Hill debate that almost certainly will see the states lose money
, as The New York Times
The NGA names a new chair and vice-chair every year, with the two governors always drawn from opposing political parties. Delaware Governor Jack Markell, a Democrat, was named the NGA's vice chair on Sunday. Markell is expected to use his connections to Vice President Joe Biden, a former U.S. senator from Delaware, to help press the states' agenda in Washington, The News Journal of Wilmington reports