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Mike Johanns

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Collection: 1950 Births, American People of German Descent, American People of Luxembourgian Descent, American People of Polish Descent, American Roman Catholics, County Supervisors and Commissioners in Nebraska, Creighton University Alumni, George W. Bush Administration Cabinet Members, Governors of Nebraska, Living People, Mayors of Lincoln, Nebraska, Nebraska City Council Members, Nebraska Democrats, Nebraska Lawyers, Nebraska Republicans, People from Osage, Iowa, Republican Party State Governors of the United States, Republican Party United States Senators, Saint Mary's University of Minnesota Alumni, United States Secretaries of Agriculture, United States Senators from Nebraska
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Mike Johanns

Mike Johanns
United States Senator
from Nebraska
In office
January 3, 2009 – January 3, 2015
Preceded by Chuck Hagel
Succeeded by Ben Sasse
28th United States Secretary of Agriculture
In office
January 21, 2005 – September 20, 2007
President George W. Bush
Preceded by Ann Veneman
Succeeded by Ed Schafer
38th Governor of Nebraska
In office
January 7, 1999 – January 20, 2005
Lieutenant David Maurstad
Dave Heineman
Preceded by Ben Nelson
Succeeded by Dave Heineman
47th Mayor of Lincoln
In office
December 3, 1991 – January 7, 1999
Preceded by Bill Harris
Succeeded by Dale Young
Personal details
Born Michael Owen Johanns
(1950-06-18) June 18, 1950
Osage, Iowa, U.S.
Political party Democratic (Before 1988)
Republican (1988–present)
Spouse(s) Connie Johanns (1972–1985)
Stephanie Johanns (1986–present)
Alma mater St. Mary's University, Minnesota
Creighton University
Religion Roman Catholicism
Website Senate website

Michael Owen "Mike" Johanns (born June 18, 1950) is a former Secretary of Agriculture, where he served from 2005 from 2007, becoming the fourth Nebraskan to hold that position.

Born in Osage, Iowa, Johanns is the graduate of Saint Mary's University of Minnesota and Creighton University School of Law. He began his career as an attorney working in private practice before he clerked for the Nebraska Supreme Court. Elected to the Lancaster County Board as a Democrat in 1983, Johanns served there until 1987, and was elected to the Lincoln City Council in 1988. In 1991, he was elected the 47th Mayor of Lincoln, and was reelected in 1995.

In Nebraska's 1998 gubernatorial election, Johanns defeated Democratic political aide Bill Hoppner and was reelected in 2002 defeating insurance executive Stormy Dean. In 2008, Johanns ran for the Republican nomination to replace retiring U.S. Senator Chuck Hagel. He won the Republican primary, defeating businessman Pat Flynn; and later won the general election, defeating Democratic challenger Scott Kleeb. He was sworn in on January 3, 2009; and along with Jim Risch of Idaho, he became only one of two new Republican senators sworn into the 111th United States Congress. On February 18, 2013, Johanns announced that he would not run for reelection to a second term in 2014.[1]


  • Early life, education, and law career 1
  • Early political career 2
  • Governor of Nebraska 3
    • Elections 3.1
      • 1998 3.1.1
      • 2002 3.1.2
    • Tenure 3.2
  • United States Secretary of Agriculture 4
  • U.S. Senate 5
    • 2008 election 5.1
    • Tenure 5.2
    • Committee assignments 5.3
    • Caucus memberships 5.4
  • Personal life 6
  • References 7
  • External links 8

Early life, education, and law career

Johanns was born in Osage, Iowa, the son of Adeline Lucy (née Royek) and John Robert Johanns. His father was of German and some Luxembourgian ancestry, and his maternal grandparents immigrated from Poland.[2][3] He grew up living and working on his family's farm.[4]

He graduated from Osage Community High School in 1968 and went on to study at Saint Mary's University of Minnesota in Winona, where he received his Bachelor of Arts in Communications in 1971.[5] Johanns earned his Juris Doctor from Creighton University School of Law, and joined the Nebraska State Bar Association in 1974.[6]

After his graduation, he clerked for Nebraska Supreme Court Judge Hale McCown from 1974 to 1975, before practicing law for Cronin and Hannon in O'Neill, Nebraska from 1975 to 1976.[7] He was a partner at Nelson, Johanns, Morris, Holdeman, and Titus, a law firm he founded in Lincoln, Nebraska in 1976, where he practiced until 1991.[5]

Early political career

Johanns served on the Lancaster County Board from 1983 to 1987 as a Democrat. In 1988, he was elected to the Lincoln City Council as a Republican where he served from 1989 to 1991. On May 7, 1991, he was elected the 47th Mayor of Lincoln, defeating incumbent Mayor Bill Harris, with 54% of the vote.[8] He took office as Mayor on December 3, 1991. In 1995, Johanns won reelection with no opposition, becoming the first Mayor of Lincoln to do so since the 1950s.[9] He was succeeded by Dale Young, who was appointed by the Lincoln City Council.[10][11]

Governor of Nebraska



Johanns began an early start campaigning in U.S. Representative Jon Lynn Christensen.[12] Johanns visited all of Nebraska's 93 counties, traveling over 100,000 miles.[13] Christensen, a two-term representative who promised not to run more than three terms in the House, was seen as a surprise candidate in the gubernatorial election, as he had to give up his seat on the powerful House ways and Means Committee.[14] Christensen (who saw backing from the christian right), and Breslow ran their campaigns on a staunch social conservative message and were seen as trying to "out conservative" and outdistance one another, while Johanns was seen as an attractive candidate for moderate voters.[15][16]

Christensen was seen as the early front runner, though his lead dramatically fell in the final weeks after making public comments that he signed an affidavit after he and his wife divorced saying that her adultery broke up their marriage.[17] He also saw backlash from comments he made about his second wife (Tara Dawn Holland, the 1996 and 1997 Miss America), that he got her to swear that she was a virgin that was "saving herself for marriage."[18][19] His campaign also vigorously attacked Johanns in a flier for allowing "obscene and racist" broadcasts to air on Lincoln's public access cable channel.[20] The broadcasts showed a man urinating in public, though Johanns tried to stop the program, the airing was protected by a federal lawsuit.[21] The flier was condemned by republican members of Nebraska's congressional delegation, with then Senator Chuck Hagel saying that "Nobody in the Republican Party of Nebraska can be proud of Jon Christensen's conduct. I hope the people of the state will get out and vote and register their feelings on the conduct of this campaign." Hagel also added that his tactics "embarrassed Nebraska."[18][19][22]

Though the race was seen as a "dead heat" the day before the primary,[23] Johanns won with 40% of the vote, to Breslow's 29% and Christensen's 28%.[24] The primary was seen as one of the most expensive in Nebraska history, with Breslow spending $3.8 million ($2.5 million of his own money), Christensen spending $1.8 million and Johanns spending $1.7 million.[19]

Incumbent Governor Ben Nelson, a popular Democrat in the staunchly red state, was term limited after serving two terms as governor, leaving the Democratic field open. Democrat Bill Hoppner won the Democratic nomination, defeating lawyer and former member of the Nebraska Legislature Jim McFarland.[25] Hoppner, an attorney who previously served as the Chief of Staff to Senators J. James Exon and Bob Kerrey, had never won an election before the democratic primary, though ran for governor and was defeated by Nelson in 1990.[26]

On November 3, 1998, Johanns and his running mate David I. Maurstad, defeated Hoppner and his running mate Pam Bataillon in the general election, by a margin of 54% to 46%.[27][28]


Johans won reelection in 2002 by a landslide, defeating Democrat Stormy Dean by a margin of 69% to 27%, thus becoming the first Republican governor of Nebraska to be reelected since Victor E. Anderson in 1956.


During his first term, Johanns focused on direct property tax relief.[29] Providing a total of $85 million in direct property tax relief.[30]

Johanns was a supporter of Initiative 413, amending Nebraska's constitution to limit state government spending, and adjusting tax revenue increases to the rate of inflation.[31] In 2002 Johanns signed legislation raising the states cigarette tax 50 cents per pack; from 34 to 84 cents.[32] Johanns also proposed another 20 cents increase of cigarette taxes, saying that “I don’t think you’re going to get much debate that medical costs are higher when you smoke. Cigarette and tobacco use may be a choice, but every one of us pays for its use, either with our health or our pocketbooks, or both.”[33]

Johanns led agriculture trade missions to Japan, China, Taiwan, Australia, South Korea and Brazil.[34] He signed legislation increasing state gasoline taxes by 1.25 cents for ethanol incentive funding, raising $1.5 million annually for Nebraska's Ethanol Production Incentive Cash Fund.[35] Johanns served as the chairman of Governors' Ethanol Coalition in 2001.[36]

Johanns was known for his strong stance on vetoing bills. In 1999 Johanns vetoed 26 bills in only five days, more than any previous Governor in Nebraska history.[37] In 2003 Johanns vetoed the entire $5.4 billion two-year Nebraska state budget. He said that he "could not accept a budget that raised taxes to grow government at a time when the state must cut spending," and called for a nearly 10% cut in every state government program.[38][39] Johanns vetoed legislation increasing the pay of members of the Nebraska Legislature, though the veto was overridden by the legislature; he also vetoed legislation authorizing teacher salary increases.[37][40]

During the 1999 legislative session, the Nebraska Legislature passed a moratorium of executions in a 27 to 21 vote, becoming the first state in the nation to send such a proposal to the governor's desk.[41] The bill set bans on all executions for two years, while a study to see if the death penalty was being applied fairly in the state took place.[42] Though the bill prevented executions from taking place, it did not exempt the sentencing of the death penalty in new cases.[43] Johanns, who is a proponent of the capital punishment, vetoed the bill a week after its passage; calling the bill "poor public policy" that would "at a minimum be utilized to advance further unnecessary criminal appeals by those currently sentenced to death row in Nebraska."[44] The veto of the bill was condemned by the American Civil Liberties Union, the American Bar Association and Pope John Paul II.[44][45]

In 1999, Johanns saw criticism from the groups People For the American Way and the American Civil Liberties Union for signing a proclamation declaring May 22, "March for Jesus Day," in honor of a fundamentalist Christian group in Nebraska.[34][46] Critiques said that Johanns was "violating the neutrality of religions that is required of his office. He was endorsing Christianity over all other religions, sending an impermissible message to Nebraskans of other faiths or of no faith that their beliefs are disfavored by the Government."[47] Johanns also endorsed "Back to the Bible Day," though he refused to issue a proclamation for Earth Religion Awareness Day, a day requested by Wicca groups.[48] Johanns said that "I wouldn't hesitate to sign a proclamation for the Jewish faith, Hinduism, whatever. So long as it doesn't require me to sign something I personally don't agree with."[49]

Johans twice served as the chair of the National Governors Association's Committee on Economic Development and Commerce from 2000 to 2001 and from 2002 to 2003.[50] In July 2001, he was unanimously approved by the Board of Directors of the Export-Import Bank of the United States to serve on the banks Advisory Committee, and in 2003 served as the chairman of the Governor’s Biotechnology Partnership.[51][52]

Johanns succeeded Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack as chair of the Midwestern Governors Association in 2002.[53]

United States Secretary of Agriculture

On December 2, 2004, Johanns was nominated by President Secretary of Agriculture Ann Veneman.[54] As a result, he scrapped plans to run against Democratic Senator Ben Nelson in Nebraska's 2006 Senate Election. At his announcement to nominate Johanns as agriculture secretary, President Bush explained that he chose him to replace Veneman for his support of ethanol and biodiesel and for his knowledge in foreign trade; calling him "a man of action and of complete integrity."[55] Johanns was confirmed in a voice vote by the Senate on January 20, 2005, hours after Bush's second inauguration.[56] He tendered his resignation as Governor of Nebraska on that day, and was sworn in the next day.[57]

The Department of Agriculture under Johanns received criticism for being too slow to perform additional tests on cows suspected of having mad cow disease.[58]

U.S. Senate

2008 election

On September 20, 2007, Johanns resigned as the Secretary of Agriculture and announced on October 10, 2007 that he would run for the United States Senate seat vacated by Senator Chuck Hagel.[59] On November 4, 2008, he was elected to the United States Senate,[60] defeating Democratic nominee Scott Kleeb in the general election.


Johanns' time in the Senate was low-key: he has never appeared on one of the Sunday morning talk shows. He voted against the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, Dodd–Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act and opposed cap-and-trade legislation. He was a member of the "Gang of Eight" that tried to negotiate a federal deficit reduction deal in 2011 and was pivotal in re-routing the proposed route of the Keystone Pipeline.[61]

Johanns received an award from the National Multiple Sclerosis Society for his work to support funding for autoimmune disease research.[62]

Committee assignments

Caucus memberships

Personal life

Johanns married his first wife, Connie Johanns, in 1972. They had two children together: a son, Justin and a daughter, Michaela.[64] He also has five grandchildren.[65] Johanns and his wife divorced in 1985, and he later married Stephanie Armitage in 1986; a former Lancaster county Commissioner and Nebraska state senator.[66]


  1. ^ Camia, Catalina; Davis, Susan (February 18, 2013). "GOP Sen. Johanns of Nebraska to retire". Retrieved 18 February 2013. 
  3. ^ Barone, Michael (2011). Almanac of American Politics. The University of Chicago Press. p. 980.  
  4. ^ David Namanny (April 20, 2010). "United States Senator Mike Johanns will give keynote address at CRC". Retrieved February 18, 2013. 
  5. ^ a b Allysa Schukar. "Mike Johanns won't seek another Senate term". Retrieved February 18, 2013. 
  6. ^ "Mike Johanns: From Iowa to Washington, a timeline". December 1, 2004. Retrieved February 18, 2013. 
  7. ^  
  8. ^ "Lincoln, NE Mayor". August 26, 2004. 
  9. ^ "Lincoln, NE Mayor". August 24, 2004. 
  10. ^ "Lincoln Police Department Annual Report 1998" (PDF). 
  11. ^ Steve Kline. "Nebraska Gov. Mike Johanns, JD’74, is the first Creighton University alum elected to a state governorship. And he is the first Roman Catholic to serve as governor of Nebraska. Johanns, a Republican, defeated Democrat Bill Hoppner in the November 1998 governor’s race. Prior to that, Johanns served two terms as mayor of Lincoln. Creighton University Magazine Executive Editor Steve Kline interviewed Gov. Johanns at the Governor’s Mansion in Lincoln for the following story" (PDF). Retrieved February 18, 2013. 
  12. ^ "NE Governor – R Primary". August 24, 2004. Retrieved February 18, 2013. 
  13. ^ Anna Jo Bratton (November 4, 2008). "Former GOP ag secretary Johanns wins in Nebraska". Retrieved February 18, 2013. 
  14. ^ "The Almanac of American Politics 1998 Nebraska: Second District Rep. Jon Christensen (R)". Retrieved February 18, 2013. 
  15. ^ Bob Wickers (July 1, 1998). "Accentuating the Positive in Nebraska's GOP Race for Governor" (PDF). Retrieved February 18, 2013. 
  16. ^ Dirk Johnson (May 7, 1998). "Battle of Conservatives In Nebraska's Primary". Retrieved February 18, 2013. 
  17. ^ Barry Bedlan (May 7, 1998). "NEBRASKA GOVERNOR'S RACE TIGHTENS".  
  18. ^ a b Margaret Carlson (May 25, 1998). "Washington Diary Facing A Dobson's Choice". Retrieved February 18, 2013. 
  19. ^ a b c "Almanac Nebraska Gov. Mike Johanns (R)". July 14, 2003. Retrieved February 18, 2013. 
  20. ^ Barry Bedlan (May 12, 1998). "GOP JOHANNS WINS NEB. GOV. PRIMARY".  
  21. ^ "Lincoln mayor wins Nebraska primary race".  
  22. ^ Connie Bruck (November 3, 2008). "THE POLITICAL SCENE ODD MAN OUT Chuck Hagel’s Republican exile.".  
  23. ^ B. Drummond Ayres Jr. (May 10, 1998). "Political Briefing; Primary in Nebraska Is Called a Dead Heat". Retrieved February 18, 2013. 
  24. ^ "Nebraska Primary Results – May 12, 1998 By Congressional Quarterly". May 12, 1998. Retrieved February 18, 2013. 
  25. ^ "NE Governor – D Primary". August 24, 2004. Retrieved February 18, 2013. 
  26. ^ Maryann Mrowca (November 7, 1990). "Nebraska Governor: From Rural Town to Statehouse".  
  27. ^ "1998 Gubernatorial General Election Results – Nebraska". Retrieved February 18, 2013. 
  28. ^ Kevin O'Hanlon (November 4, 1998). "Johanns cruises to victory". Retrieved February 18, 2013. 
  29. ^ "LEGISLATIVE JOURNAL STATE OF THE STATE ADDRESS" (PDF). January 27, 1999. Retrieved February 18, 2013. 
  30. ^ "Nebraska Governor Mike Johanns". Retrieved February 18, 2013. 
  31. ^ "1998 General Election: Initiative 413 The Complete History of the Nebraska Tax Equity and Educational Opportunities Support Act (TEEOSA) Policy History Navigation". Retrieved February 18, 2013. 
  32. ^ Scoot Bauer (March 1, 2002). "Johanns Asks For Cigarette Tax Hike, School Aid Cut". Retrieved February 18, 2013. 
  33. ^  
  34. ^ a b William Branigin, Jim VandeHei (December 2, 2004). "Johanns Nominated for Agriculture Secretary Nebraska Governor Will Replace Veneman".  
  35. ^ "98th Legislature Second Session 2004 Session Review" (PDF). Retrieved February 18, 2013. 
  36. ^ Daniel Goldstein (December 2, 2004). "Bush Taps Nebraska's Johanns as Agriculture Secretary (Update1)". Retrieved February 18, 2013. 
  37. ^ a b "Mike Johanns Navigator A list of resources about Mike Johanns as selected by researchers and editors of The New York Times.". July 29, 2010. Retrieved February 18, 2013. 
  38. ^ "Neb. lawmakers may override budget veto". May 27, 2003. Retrieved February 18, 2013. 
  39. ^ "The 2003 Legislative Session The Complete History of the Nebraska Tax Equity and Educational Opportunities Support Act (TEEOSA) Policy History Navigation". Retrieved February 18, 2013. 
  40. ^ Kristi Bender (April 10, 2001). "Teacher pay hike faces veto". Retrieved February 18, 2013. 
  41. ^ "Execution Moratorium Vetoed By Gop Governor". May 27, 1999. Retrieved February 18, 2013. 
  42. ^ Dirk Johnson (May 21, 1999). "Legislature Of Nebraska Votes Pause In Executions". Retrieved February 18, 2013. 
  43. ^  
  44. ^ a b Henry Weinstein (May 27, 1999). "Nebraska Governor Vetoes Moratorium on Executions Legislation: He rejects plea from pope, saying the measure would only cause more pain for victims' families. Legislature sets override vote for today.". Retrieved February 18, 2013. 
  45. ^ (May 26, 1999). "ACLU of Nebraska Says Study Still Needed Despite Governor's Veto of Death Penalty Moratorium".  
  46. ^ Molly Wood (May 6, 1999). "Johanns supports March for Jesus". Retrieved February 18, 2013. 
  47. ^ Dunn, Paul R. (January 1, 2004). Touching Raw Nerves: A Liberal Yankee Columnist Takes on Conservative Dixie. University Press of America. p. 52.  
  48. ^ "Almanac Gov. Mike Johanns (R)". June 15, 2001. Retrieved February 18, 2013. 
  49. ^ "Profile: Secretary of Agriculture Mike Johanns". November 1, 2005. Retrieved February 18, 2013. 
  50. ^ "Johanns Picked to Head USDA". December 2, 2004. Retrieved February 18, 2013. 
  51. ^ "NEBRASKA GOVERNOR MIKE JOHANNS NAMED TO EX-IM BANK 2001 ADVISORY COMMITTEE". July 20, 2001. Retrieved February 18, 2013. 
  52. ^ "Secretary of Agriculture Mike Johanns" (PDF).  
  53. ^ "Former Chairs of the Midwestern Governors Association". Retrieved February 18, 2013. 
  54. ^ White House Office of the Press Secretary (December 2, 2004). "Personnel Announcement". Retrieved February 18, 2013. 
  55. ^ "Transcript: Bush Selects Johanns for Agriculture Secretary". December 2, 2004. Retrieved February 18, 2013. 
  56. ^ "George W. Bush Cabinet Nominations". Retrieved February 18, 2013. 
  57. ^ "Senate confirms two Bush cabinet nominees". January 20, 2005. Retrieved February 18, 2013. 
  58. ^ "U.S. will now conduct mad cow test it called unnecessary". USA Today. 26 June 2005. Retrieved 14 August 2014. 
  59. ^ Abbott, Charles (2007-09-20). "Johanns resigns as agriculture secretary". Archived from the original on 2008-06-20. Retrieved 2008-10-10. 
  60. ^ Walton, Don (2007-09-19). "Johanns will enter Senate race". Lincoln Journal Star. Retrieved 2008-10-10. 
  61. ^ "As career winds down, Mike Johanns turns reflective". February 23, 2013. Retrieved September 26, 2014. 
  62. ^ "LEND A HAND: Bachus honored for funding multiple sclerosis research". Tuscaloosa News. 11 October 2014. Retrieved 7 November 2014. 
  63. ^ "Senate Leaders Announce Bipartisan Committee To Investigate Judge G. Thomas Porteous" (Press release). Senate Democratic Caucus. 2010-03-17. Retrieved 2010-04-29. 
  64. ^ "Mike Johanns". Retrieved 15 November 2014. 
  65. ^ Official Congressional Directory, 2009-2010: 111th Congress, Convened January 2009. Government Printing Office. January 2010. p. 159.  
  66. ^ Ed Howard (December 2, 2004). "Bush Picks Johanns As U.S. Ag Secretary Heineman will become governor". 

External links

Political offices
Preceded by
Bill Harris
Mayor of Lincoln
Succeeded by
Dale Young
Preceded by
Ben Nelson
Governor of Nebraska
Succeeded by
Dave Heineman
Preceded by
Ann Veneman
United States Secretary of Agriculture
Succeeded by
Ed Schafer
United States Senate
Preceded by
Chuck Hagel
U.S. Senator (Class 2) from Nebraska
Served alongside: Ben Nelson, Deb Fischer
Succeeded by
Ben Sasse
Party political offices
Preceded by
Gene Spence
Republican nominee for Governor of Nebraska
1998, 2002
Succeeded by
Dave Heineman
Preceded by
Chuck Hagel
Republican nominee for U.S. Senator from Nebraska
(Class 2)

Succeeded by
Ben Sasse
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