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Johanns won’t run for re-election; governor and Fortenberry consider run

By   /   February 18, 2013  /   28 Comments

U.S. Sen. Mike Johanns announced today he will not run for re-election.

By Deena Winter | Nebraska Watchdog

Updated 4:10 p.m.
U.S. Sen. Mike Johanns rocked Nebraska’s political landscape by announcing today he has changed his mind and will not seek re-election to his seat next year.

In that wake of that surprising turnaround, Congressman Jeff Fortenberry and Gov. Dave Heineman both said they will consider a run for the office.

Johanns told Nebraska Watchdog today he got the “scare of my life” in 2009, when he had a cancer scare but a lung operation turned up scar tissue. That caused he and his wife, Stephanie, to re-evaluate things, but he didn’t finalize his decision until the past week, he said. He told Heineman Monday morning.

The Johannses released a statement saying that after being in public service for more than 32 years, they have decided to exit the stage.

“Between the two of us, we have been on the ballot for primary and general elections 16 times and we have served in eight offices,” Johanns said in the statement. “It is time to close this chapter of our lives.”

The Johannses said they would like to take time out for awhile, but didn’t rule out further public service.

“During these many years, we have cherished our time together,” they said in the statement. “So as we think about the next stage of our lives, we want a quieter time with our focus on each other, our family and our faith. We are also confident that there will be many more opportunities to serve our state and our nation.”

The surprise announcement means another big open race in Nebraska next year, in addition to the governor’s race.

Johanns is a former Lincoln mayor, two-term Nebraska governor, U.S. Agriculture Secretary and was elected to his six-year term in the U.S. Senate in 2008.

Heineman — who ends his term as governor next year — would be a strong contender for the seat, and many others are sure to reconsider their political futures now that the seat is open. The governor said he wasn’t even thinking about the U.S. Senate until he got the call from his friend, Johanns, under whom he served as lieutenant governor.

“I’ll think about it but I don’t want you to misinterpret that,” he told reporters today. “I just gotta think about it. My heart’s in Nebraska, not Washington, D.C. … Thinking does not mean I’m running.”

Fortenberry complimented Johanns as a “model public servant” and said, “Given this turn of events, I feel compelled to say I will consider a run for the United States Senate.”

“I will listen to Nebraskans, explore the questions of how I might most effectively serve, and weigh the demands of such an endeavor with my family,” Fortenberry said via email.

Heineman said he was glad to hear Fortenberry will consider the race and hopes “lots of Nebraskans” do the same. He relishes his job as governor, and said he can think of lots of things to do after his term ends.

“I’m not sure I want to spend the time running for the United States Senate,” he said. “But I understand the importance of that job.”

Asked whether his political plans have changed with the recent developments, Attorney General Jon Bruning released a statement saying: “Today we should reflect on Senator Mike Johanns’ commitment to the people of Nebraska and the good work he has done. Throughout his 32 years of public service, he has been a steadfast advocate for Nebraska’s growth and success. I wish him and Stephanie the best of luck in their future endeavors and offer my sincere appreciation for his outstanding service.”

Johanns has a full schedule in Nebraska this week, visiting a dozen cities beginning in Papillion today and then heading west to Grand Island tomorrow.

Here is the entire statement from Mike and Stephanie Johanns:

We would like to share with you a decision we have made about running for re-election to the United States Senate. We have decided not to seek re-election.

Words are inadequate to fully express our appreciation for the friendship and support you have given to us over the past three decades.

With everything in life, there is a time and a season. At the end of this term, we will have been in public service over 32 years.

During these many years, we have cherished our time together. So as we think about the next stage of our lives, we want a quieter time with our focus on each other, our family and our faith. We are also confident that there will be many more opportunities to serve our state and our nation.

We look forward to the remaining time in the Senate. It is an honor to have served in so many ways over so many years.

May God continue to bless Nebraska and our great nation.

This is a developing story. Check back for updates.

Contact Deena Winter at [email protected].

Editor’s note: to subscribe to News Updates from Nebraska Watchdog at no cost, click here.


Deena formerly served as staff reporter for Watchdog.org.

  • Malone1610

    Fortenberry is a “candy a**” RINO/ “empty suit”, with almost as bad a voting record as Ben Nelson. I hope Ricketts realizes that. Everyone else should also.

  • Malone1610

    You should thank your lucky stars the Tea Party is as powerful as it is….they are what is going to save this country from further decay!

  • You mean the movement that so many blindly are following, but was created, bought and paid for by the Koch Brothers and big tobacco? Too many like you are not even aware you’re nothing but a bunch of puppets playing to their tune.

  • resistwemuch

    Lisa: Big tobacco? Wasn’t it Al Gore and his family that made big bucks off raising tobacco? If I remember correctly Al is a democrat, socialist, progressive, liberal who also has made millions off carbon trading while maintaining several mansions throughout the US (one of which uses more coal plant produced electricity that one average household) and not to mention his use of private jets to flit around the planet to preach about the need (for the peons) to use less carbon dioxide emitting devices. People like you are a standing joke. I am extremely happy that Johanns is “retiring.” We now have an opportunity to have 2 republicans from Nebraska representing us in DC.

  • Ted

    Johanns has been in over his head for most of those 32 years. He’s just smart enough to know the tea party was poised to smother him. Just when we thought it couldn’t get any worse. C’mon Tom White and Steve Lathrop!

  • resistwemuch

    I left out an important fact in my original posting. It should have said that one of Al Gore’s mansion uses more coal produced electricity that 40 average houses. Sorry.

  • Darth Watchdog

    “Blindly following” are those who proudly line up behind Obama…worst president ever.

  • Governor Heineman can do less harm to Nebraska as Senator than he has as Governor. But maybe the Gov would want to go to work in the private sector and not be labeled as a career politician?

  • OutWst


  • OutWst

    Oh, yeah. I’m “teffified.” (Spelling was never the Tea Party’s long suit. That and thinking generally.)

  • OutWst

    He’ll have a nice retirement, courtesy of U.S. taxpayers. Don’t discount that as a motivator for at least some of those who run for the Senate and the House.

  • OutWst


  • OutWst

    Yes, Fortenberry is head and shoulders above the other two congressional representatives from Nebraska.

  • Pat Boyle

    If two republicans from Nebraska are elected do you change your handle from resistwemuch to putyourheadinthesand?

  • resistwemuch

    Pat: Spoken like a true Boil.

  • ToucheTurtle

    Ah . . . but what would you B*TCH about then??? I can’t imagine how lost you would be without a “whipping boy/girl” in D.C. to entertain you and help you expand your vocabulary!!!

    You have a chance to support your own candidates . . WHERE are they?????

  • ToucheTurtle

    You are so correct. After all, we apparently have no viable candidates on the Democrat side since our pal, Ben, sold us down the river for the “Cornhusker Kickback” which we didn’t ask for!!! Isn’t there a fair-minded Dem out there who is foolish enough to throw his hat . . . and his money . . . into the ring??? There isn’t anything better than a good debate between friends!!!

  • ToucheTurtle

    PLEASE define “thugette” because apparently Webster’s is not keeping up these days!!!

  • ToucheTurtle

    All that counts, my friend, is if you can shoot a gun and hit your mark . . . the rest is a moot point!!!!

  • Good riddance. Maybe you can quit this early too?

  • I’m not looking for entertainment, I’m looking for results. And the results I have seen is that Deb Fischer is an ignorant hack, and Adrian Smith is an ineffective representative that blindly votes the way the failed House leadership wants him to. In six years in Congress, he has accomplished nothing.

  • Jazzee

    OH brother always the Koch brothers and what is wrong with tobacco???? let’s see who supports the lefties care to tell us???

  • Jazzee

    so glad to get rid of worthless Johanns
    see ya dude

  • ToucheTurtle

    So perhaps it is TIME for you to “put up or shut up!” You continually B*TCH and WHINE about those who are elected . . . either put your name in the hat because you are such an expert or find someone else to represent you. I LOVE the folks who complain about every person in government and what they DON’T do but have no viable solutions of their own!!! WOW . . . it must be truly GREAT to have the advantage of absolute knowledge and no accountability of your own!!!!!

  • You have massively misjudged me, as I do not complain about every politician. I just state facts, and the facts are that Deb Fischer’s vote against Hagel is nothing more than retaliation because he endorsed Bob Kerrey, and Adrian Smith is a man with a thin resume and thinner list of accomplishments. In his three plus terms in the House, he has been an ineffective representative, as he has not authored one piece of legislation that has been signed into law. He is a puppet, and Nebraska deserves better.

  • Watching_From_Lincoln

    Like Dilbit Deb Fischer?

  • Watching_From_Lincoln

    I love it how anybody who doesn’t toe the Koch Neo-Fascist Party Line is immediately labeled as a “RINO” by people who are either too young or too ignorant to know what a REAL Republican is. Thirty years of funding cuts to Public Education by the Neo-Fascists since 1980 has resulted in two generations of people too stupid to know how ignorant they really are.

  • Watching_From_Lincoln

    HeineyMan most probably has a nice, cushy, seven-figure salary in a no responsibility job with TransCanada awaiting him once he leaves office: Judas’ reward for back stabbing and selling out Nebraska landowners and destroying the reputation and marketability of our ag and cattle industries the first time the KXL will leak.