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 Johanns (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.
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 Fischer, 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 Fortenberry (R-Neb.) and Don Stenberg, the state’s treasurer, are among the potential candidates for the seat.