Secretary of Agriculture Johanns Resigning to Run for Senate

Former Nebraska Governor Mike Johanns (R) will reportedly be resigning from the Cabinet in order to run for the Nebraska Senate seat being vacated by Chuck Hagel. Johanns resigned as Nebraska’s Governor at the start of the second Bush Adminstration (Jan 2005), after being reelected in 2002 with 69% of the vote.

U.S. Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns is resigning to run for the U.S. Senate in Nebraska. The White House scheduled an announcement for this morning by President Bush, who will be joined by Johanns, a senior administration official said Wednesday evening.

After news broke about Johanns’ plans, some critics quickly went on the attack.

Johanns would be leaving the U.S. Department of Agriculture before Congress approves a new farm bill, which happens every five years, said state Democratic Party spokesman Eric Fought.

“It’s interesting this was supposed to be his dream job, and he’s looking to leave it before he’s done,” Fought said.

Resignation would free Johanns from the Hatch Act’s prohibition on federal employees being candidates for partisan public office. He then could formally enter the race to succeed Republican Sen. Chuck Hagel, who is retiring at the end of 2008.

No Democrat has yet announced a bid for the seat, although Bob Kerrey, a former two-term senator and former governor, is close to deciding whether he will run.

As a former Nebraska resident, I’d say Johanns has the Republican nomination. His competition is the State Attorney General Jon Bruning, and a former Congressman and Omaha mayor, Hal Daub. The probable Democrat opponent is former Senator Bob Kerry (no relation to Mass Senator Kerry), who has been living in New York City for the past seven years, a big negative strike against him.

The contest for Nebraska’s open Senate seat is shaping up to be a potential clash of two statewide titans. Democrats view the race as a prime pickup opportunity if former Sen. Bob Kerrey jumps in the race. Kerrey met last week with Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee Chairman Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) to discuss a potential candidacy.

Kerrey, now president of the New School in New York City, remains a popular figure in Nebraska and has the name identification and fundraising capability to mount a serious campaign.
The Nebraska Senate seat is also one of a growing number of seats in traditionally conservative states that Democrats are ever-optimistic they can pick up in 2008. Already the party is bullish about picking up Republican-leaning seats that have been in GOP hands for the last decade.

Not exactly. Nebraska has been a Populist state since the Depression. It is a religious state, but not so much Evangelical as Catholic. It is part of the West, not the South.

While Republicans hold a substantial registration advantage in Nebraska, the state has not elected a Republican senator other than Hagel, an iconoclastic moderate, since 1972.

Johanns is another moderate. If Bob Kerry runs, this could be an interesting race. If Kerry doesn’t run, there is no contest.

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Richard Gardner
About Richard Gardner
Richard Gardner is a “retired” Navy Submarine Officer with military policy, arms control, and budgeting experience. He contributed over 100 pieces to OTB between January 2004 and August 2008, covering special events. He has a BS in Engineering from the University of California, Irvine.


  1. legion says:

    A Bush appointee resigning for some reason other than indictment, disgrace, or “spending more time with the family”? The deuce you say!