Pillen appoints Carolyn Bosn, former Lancaster County prosecutor, to replace Geist in Legislature

By: - April 6, 2023 4:02 pm

Nebraska Gov. Jim Pillen introduces his appointee to the Legislature, Carolyn Bosn, during a news conference in Lincoln, Neb. with her husband, Reggie, and their children. Bosn will replace State Sen. Suzanne Geist, who resigned to run full-time for Lincoln mayor. (Aaron Sanderford/Nebraska Examiner)

LINCOLN — Nebraska Gov. Jim Pillen picked former prosecutor Carolyn Bosn on Thursday to replace one of law enforcement’s favorites in the Legislature, State Sen. Suzanne Geist.

Pillen said he knew and trusted Bosn’s “extraordinary public servant heart” because she grew up in his hometown of Columbus. He said their families have known each other for “generations.”

“She is pure and simple ‘Team Nebraska’ all the way,” Pillen said, crediting Bosn’s work ethic and background in criminal justice as assets the Legislature needs with Geist leaving. 

Bosn, who prosecuted cases in Lincoln and Wahoo before staying home to raise her kids, will represent District 25 in southeast Lincoln. Geist is resigning to run full-time for Lincoln mayor.

A prosecutor’s approach

Flanked Thursday by her husband, Reggie, and her four children, Bosn said she looks forward to earning trust from her constituents and from her fellow legislators.

“As a public servant, I approach every day as an opportunity to do what is fair and right, using discretion without abusing discretion,” she said.  

Lt. Gov. Joe Kelly, who worked with Bosn at the Lancaster County Attorney’s Office, said he knew Bosn as a reliable prosecutor who understood the needs of police officers and victims.

Bosn has served as an adjunct professor at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln College of Law’s trial advocacy program and has volunteered to help coach the trial team.

Lt. Gov. Joe Kelly, former Lancaster County attorney, talks about his former co-worker in the prosecutor’s office, State Sen.-designate Carolyn Bosn, during a news conference in Lincoln, Neb. She will replace State Sen. Suzanne Geist, who resigned to run full-time for Lincoln mayor. (Aaron Sanderford/Nebraska Examiner)

Pillen’s private process

Pillen said he started looking for Geist’s possible replacement shortly after she announced a run, which she did in September. Pillen was elected in November.

He said he interviewed two candidates over the past six to eight days and spoke to several more over the preceding weeks. Geist announced her departure Wednesday. 

State Sens. Machaela Cavanaugh and Megan Hunt, both of Omaha, criticized Pillen’s process. Cavanaugh said it “reeks of cronyism” because of Bosn’s ties to Pillen and Kelly.

Cavanaugh said Geist should have let the public know she was likely to vacate the seat before the Legislature decided on committee chairs, particularly residents of Legislative District 25.

“That is not an appropriate process for representation of a district,” Cavanaugh said, adding that the process was concealed. “It should have been made public.”

Bosn said she plans to run for election to the seat in 2o24.

Big bills ahead

Bosn, a registered Republican like Geist, said her politics are driven by law enforcement and public safety, protecting families, cutting taxes and reducing spending. She also said she understands the economic importance of Nebraska agriculture.

Under questioning from reporters, she said she would echo Geist’s support for Legislative Bill 626, a proposed abortion ban after an ultrasound detects embryonic cardiac activity.

Lt. Gov. Joe Kelly and State Sen. Suzanne Geist listen as Gov. Jim Pillen announces his pick to replace her in the Legislature. (Aaron Sanderford/Nebraska Examiner)

She also said she, like Geist, supports Legislative Bills 574 and 575, which would restrict gender-affirming health care for trans minors and would limit them to bathrooms and school sports teams based on their sex at birth. 

Replacing Geist on committees

Geist’s committee assignments will be redistributed next week, State Sen. Tom Briese of Albion said. The Committee on Committees will meet at 10 a.m. Tuesday, he said.

He said that her position on the Legislature’s Executive Board will be decided by the 1st District Caucus of state senators, subject to the approval of the full Legislature. 

Geist’s chairmanship of the Transportation and Telecommunications Committee will move at least temporarily to State Sen. Mike Moser of Columbus, the committee’s vice chair.

Briese said he would accept letters until Wednesday from any senator interested in replacing Geist on the Legislature’s Performance Audit Committee.

The bills Geist sponsored will shift to other senators, he said. Geist faces Lincoln Mayor Leirion Gaylor Baird in the city’s May 2 general election.

Nebraska Examiner Senior Reporter Cindy Gonzalez contributed to this report.

Correction: This article has been revised to reflect that State Sen. Machaela Cavanaugh said State Sen. Suzanne Geist should have let the public know sooner that she planned to resign. 



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Aaron Sanderford
Aaron Sanderford

Political reporter Aaron Sanderford has tackled various news roles in his 20-plus year career. He has reported on politics, crime, courts, government and business for the Omaha World-Herald and Lincoln Journal-Star. He also worked as an assignment editor and editorial writer. He was an investigative reporter at KMTV.