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Ex-NYPD Official To Succeed Ridge

Kerik started with the NYPD as a beat cop in Times Square and was one of Giuliani's bodyguards during the 1993 campaign. Kerik wrote a best-selling autobiography, "The Lost Son: A Life in the Pursuit of Justice," covering the mystery of his mother, who abandoned her young son.

Administration officials had said that Kerik was on Bush's short list to replace Ridge, but the president's choice for agriculture secretary was a surprise. Johanns was the Republican front-runner to take on Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.), a freshman who is up for reelection in 2006 and is considered vulnerable by the GOP.

Ex-New York police commissioner Bernard B. Kerik joined President Bush at an October stump stop. (Larry Downing -- Reuters)

_____Bush Nominates Johanns_____
Mike Johanns Video: President Bush nominated Nebraska Governor Mike Johanns to succeed Ann M. Veneman as agriculture secretary.
Nomination Transcript

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Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.) had energetically promoted Johanns for Senate. Nebraska's lieutenant governor, Dave Heineman (R), is to serve the remaining two years of Johanns's term.

Appearing with his nominee in the White House Roosevelt Room, Bush said that in the second term he plans to continue policies that are "pro-growth, pro-jobs and pro-farmer" and keep working to open foreign markets to U.S. agricultural products.

Johanns said in brief remarks that his agricultural background has done much "to define who I am as a person." He said one of his campaign messages was that "after growing up on a dairy farm . . . everything in life seemed easy after that."

Johanns was not the first candidate sounded out by Bush aides. White House senior adviser Karl Rove called Nelson, the Democratic senator, on Nov. 12 and asked what his reaction would be to being considered for agriculture secretary, according to sources in both parties.

Nelson called Rove back Nov. 17 to say he was not interested in agriculture secretary. But he said he was interested in two other Cabinet posts, according to a Republican familiar with the exchange. Nelson said that he led trade delegations as Nebraska governor and would be interested in being commerce secretary and that he has an abiding interest in energy issues and would also accept the job of energy secretary, the Republican said.

The selection of Johanns led to speculation in Nebraska and Washington that the nomination might be designed as an incentive for Nelson to switch to the GOP. Nelson's office said he has had no such conversations with the White House, and Republicans pointed out that he has more leverage with the White House as a Democrat who can be persuaded to cross the aisle on certain votes.

Johanns took office as Nebraska governor in January 1999 and was reelected in 2002, becoming the first GOP governor to win a second term in the state since 1956. He began his political career as a Democrat but switched parties in 1988. He was elected Lincoln mayor three years later and was reelected in 1995.

Johanns has come under criticism from civil liberties groups for official actions that they said promoted conservative Christian beliefs. In May 1999 he signed a proclamation declaring a March for Jesus Day, and he later endorsed a Back to the Bible Day in honor of a fundamentalist Christian group in Nebraska.

Both nominees must be confirmed by the Senate.

Meanwhile, Bush plans to launch a public push to restructure Social Security and the tax code at an economic forum Dec. 15-16, the White House announced. At the forum, which will include Vice President Cheney, Cabinet members and business officials, Bush is planning also to tout limits on lawsuits, restraints on federal spending, and ways to improve health care and education.

Staff writers William Branigin and Jim VandeHei contributed to this report.

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