Gov. Dave Heineman can be full of surprises.
Wednesday, he sprung one, naming former State Sen. Lavon Heidemann as his new lieutenant governor. He replaces Rick Sheehy, who resigned suddenly 12 days ago as the World-Herald was presenting the results of its investigation into hundreds of improper cell phone calls made by the now-former Lt. Gov.
Heidemann’s name hadn’t even come up in the speculation about a new No. 2.
Former Sens. Tony Fulton, Chris Langemeier and Phil Erdman had dominated the guessing game — a game that it always dangerous with this governor, who keeps his thoughts notoriously close to his vest.
But Heidemann is a great pick, most observers said, if the governor is going to mend some fences with leaders in the 49-seat Unicameral Legislature.
That’s the group that overrode the governor on a couple of major issues last year — prenatal care for unborn babies of illegal immigrants and allowing cities an extra half-cent of sales taxing authority.
That’s the group that’s still a bit steamed about Heineman’s calling-out of then-Speaker Mike Flood for his support for the prenatal bill. The governor ratched up the hard feelings when he came out publicly against a pay raise for senators because of the prenatal vote.
Heidemann is a good pick to help salve those wounds. He’s popular within the Legislature, not that partisan, and has a patient way with even the most excitable senators. A cool head is probably needed in the corner of the Capitol where the offices of the governor and lieutenant governor are located.
But a little perspective about the No. 2 job.
No one asks the lieutenant governor for his positions on controversial issues. He’s expected to toe the line and push the governor’s agenda. Period.
If it’s bad policy, even the most popular lieutenant governor won’t make a difference.
And I can’t recall the last time a lieutenant governor influenced how the Legislature voted on an issue.
So it’s uncertain if Heidemann can make a difference in helping the governor’s agenda. What is certain is it sure can’t hurt.