Sheehy's resignation throws open race for governor

2013-02-02T12:45:00Z 2013-03-21T20:10:13Z Sheehy's resignation throws open race for governorBy KEVIN O'HANLON / Lincoln Journal Star JournalStar.com
February 02, 2013 12:45 pm  • 

The abrupt resignation of Republican Lt. Gov. Rick Sheehy on Saturday threw open the 2014 governor's race, which now finds the GOP and the Democratic Party with no declared candidates.

Republican Gov. Dave Heineman announced Saturday morning that he had accepted Sheehy's resignation. He did not say why Sheehy resigned, but the governor's office, responding to public records requests from the media, released records showing the lieutenant governor had made scores of late-night phone calls -- reportedly to women -- from his state cellphone during the past four years.

Sheehy's wife filed for divorce in July 2012.

Sheehy was unavailable for comment on whether he was suspending his candidacy for governor, but Heineman said: "I doubt he will continue his campaign for governor, and no, I would not support him under the circumstances."

Former Speaker of the Legislature Mike Flood, who was challenging Sheehy for the GOP nomination, withdrew from the race in December after his wife, Mindi, was diagnosed with breast cancer.

State Sen. Charlie Janssen of Fremont is pondering a run for the GOP nomination.

"I plan on making that decision in the next couple of weeks," Janssen said. "I'm leaning toward running."

He said Sheehy's resignation would not affect his decision.

"Who's in or who's out won't affect my decision," he said. "It will be a decision based on me, my family and what I think I can accomplish."

Attorney General Jon Bruning had been pondering seeking the GOP nomination, but recently he rejected the idea. He was not immediately available for comment.

On the Democratic side, Omaha Sen. Steve Lathrop said Saturday that he still was pondering a run, as is Chuck Hassebrook, a former University of Nebraska regent and executive director of the Center for Rural Affairs. State Sen. Annette Dubas of Fullerton, who also has been mentioned as a possible candidate, could not be reached for immediate comment.

Lathrop has been testing the gubernatorial waters for at least a year. He said he would make a decision in the next several weeks.

"I am probably leaning towards getting in," Lathrop said. "I'm going to make a decision based on what's right for me, and it will not be influenced by who's in or who's out.

Hassebrook also said Sheehy's resignation would not affect his decision.

"I'm looking at it," he said. "I'm taking a hard look at it."

Heineman cannot seek re-election because of term limits.

Public access to Sheehy's Twitter account was shut off  Saturday.

Sheehy, a former mayor of Hastings, was picked by Heineman to be lieutenant governor in 2005, when Republican Gov. Mike Johanns resigned to become U.S. agriculture secretary and Heineman moved into the governor's chair.

Heineman had been an open supporter of Sheehy's candidacy.

Democratic State Chairman Vince Powers said the party had several viable potential candidates and that it was time for change at the governor's office, which the GOP has held since 2000.

"Nebraska Democrats were always going to win the governor's race in 2014, given the two or three very strong candidates," Powers said. "This resignation just demonstrates once more that when one party has too much power for too long, corruption, arrogance and scandal occur."

Republican Party Chairman Mark Fahleson said he was confident the GOP would field a candidate.

"We have a very deep bench of quality potential candidates," he said. "We will have a competitive Republican primary in 2014, and I'm confident our nominee will be the next governor of Nebraska."

Reach Kevin O'Hanlon at 402-473-2682 or kohanlon@journalstar.com.

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