By Deena Winter | Nebraska Watchdog
LINCOLN — During an emotional press conference, Speaker Mike Flood announced today he is withdrawing from the governor’s race after his wife, Mandi, was diagnosed with breast cancer on Monday.
“My focus is going to be on being a full-time dad,” he said. “We’ve got two young kids. I’ve got a very strong wife. And I want to assure you that everything is going to be OK long term. A lot of women in this state and across this country have faced these kinds of hurdles and this will be OK.”
With a number of state senators of both parties looking on, Flood said he is confident Mandi, 36, will beat cancer and the experience will bring his family closer together. He and his wife and two sons — Brenden, 6, and Blake, 3 — are leaving for Disney World tomorrow morning.
“We’re going to be fine,” he said while shaking his foot behind him while trying to maintain his composure. “I have every reason to believe that this is going to be a memory in five years. … She will be OK. We will be OK.”
Flood said it wasn’t a difficult decision to pull out of the race.
“This was just the right decision,” he said. “These are easy questions to answer.”
Before announcing his departure from the race, Flood talked about how much he enjoyed traveling the state for the past six months and serving as speaker for the past six years.
“This is a great state, with a bright future. Nebraskans set an example for the rest of the country; we are hard-working, we don’t spend more than we earn, we are good neighbors, and we take care of our families,” he said.
Asked whether he could see running for office in the future, he said, “Not really.”
He said his political career “doesn’t really matter” right now, although he’s enjoyed his public service.
“I’ve got some pretty big things to address,” Flood said. “And it puts it into perspective real quick.”
A Judiciary Committee executive session was scheduled to start at the same time as Flood’s press conference, but after hearing Flood’s announcement, chairman Brad Ashford was barely able to speak, he was so emotional. He told observers about Flood’s announcement, saying from what he understood it is a pretty serious case of cancer.
“We tend to be sort of family down here,” Ashford said as he regained his composure.
Flood said his wife had surgery to remove a tumor and is awaiting test results to determine if the cancer spread to her lymph nodes, according to the Norfolk Daily News. Chemotherapy will likely be done either way. She found a lump one day after Flood formally entered the governor’s race on Nov. 12, according to Flood’s hometown newspaper.
Flood is a popular senator, known for being fair and brokering compromises on big issues such as the Keystone XL oil pipeline. After his announcement, senators in clusters around the capitol looked shocked and sometimes bleary-eyed.
The incoming chairman of the state Democratic Party, Vince Powers, released a statement saying, “All Nebraskans wish the best for Mandi Flood and family. We hope for a speedy recovery. Mandi and Mike Flood are in our thoughts.”
U.S. Sen.-elect Deb Fischer also released a statement saying, “Bruce and I are keeping our good friends Mike and Mandi Flood in our thoughts and prayers as their family faces this challenge. We know their strong faith will be a comfort and help to them as they make the necessary decisions in the coming days.”
Gov. Dave Heineman also said the Floods, whom he called personal friends, had his “support and prayers.”
“The success of facing challenges, in some part, relies on one’s structure of support and friendship, and Sally and I continue to offer ours,” the governor said in a press statement. “I respect Mike and his decision, and wish the Flood family the best.”
Lt. Gov. Rick Sheehy — a fellow Republican running for governor — released a statement saying, “Mike and Mandi have been friends of mine for a number of years and I am saddened by this news. My thoughts and prayers go out to them as they go through a difficult and personal time. I’ve always appreciated working with Mike for the betterment of our state, and look forward to doing so again in the future.”
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