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 JohannsMike JohannsLobbying World To buy a Swiss company, ChemChina must pass through Washington Republican senator vows to block nominees over ObamaCare co-ops 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 FischerDeb FischerLawmakers share photos of their dogs in honor of National Puppy Day Senators demand Pentagon action after nude photo scandal GOP rep scolds Gillibrand for tearing into Marine general over nude-photo scandal 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 FortenberryJeff FortenberryThe Hill's Whip List: 34 GOP 'no' votes on ObamaCare repeal plan Trump's plan for safe zones in Syria necessary for the civil war's end A guide to the committees: House MORE (R-Neb.) and Don Stenberg, the state’s treasurer, are among the potential candidates for the seat.