Gov. Dave Heineman of Nebraska said Saturday that he would not run for his state’s open Senate seat in 2014, taking away what would have been the heavy favorite in the race.

Heineman, a popular Republican, said in a statement that a Senate bid would have been a distraction during his final months in office, according to media reports out of Nebraska.

"We are going to continue to focus on tax relief and tax reform for Nebraska’s middle class families, expanding job opportunities for Nebraskans, and improving Nebraska’s education system by strengthening academic achievement,” said Heineman, who has been governor since 2005 and is ineligible to run for reelection in 2014.

Sen. Mike JohannsMichael (Mike) Owen JohannsFarmers, tax incentives can ease the pain of a smaller farm bill Lobbying World To buy a Swiss company, ChemChina must pass through Washington MORE (R-Neb.), Heineman’s predecessor as governor, announced earlier this year that he would not seek a second term in the Senate. Speculation quickly centered on Heineman, just as it did when Nebraska had an open Senate seat in 2012.

But the Nebraska governor declined once more, after reportedly talking to former governors about making the switch to the Senate. Former governors who take a seat in the Senate have often expressed frustration at the slower pace of the Senate, and the chamber’s inability to make decisions quickly.

Even with Heineman taking a pass, Republicans are likely to feel confident they’ll be able to keep control of the seat, as they try once more to regain control of the Senate.

Sen. Deb FischerDebra (Deb) Strobel FischerSenate Republicans call on Trump to preserve NAFTA US trade deficit rises on record imports from China Flake, GOP senators to meet with Trump on trade MORE, a Republican, easily won Nebraska’s other Senate seat last November, after former Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) retired.

Still, Heineman’s decision opens the door for potentially a wide-open battle for the GOP nomination. Rep. Jeff FortenberryJeffrey (Jeff) Lane FortenberryGOP lawmakers help people injured in train crash We vowed to help persecuted religious minorities — it’s time to act Kurds, Iraqi Christians want democracy for themselves MORE (R-Neb.) and Don Stenberg, the state’s treasurer, are among the potential candidates for the seat.