President Bush has tapped Nebraska Governor Mike Johanns to succeed Ann Veneman as Secretary of Agriculture. That announcement came Thursday morning and likely scratches Johanns from a senate bid in 2006.
Johanns has been considered a likely challenger to Democratic Senator Ben Nelson.
Nebraska Republican Party Chairman David Kramer said Governor Mike Johanns will not run for the U.S. Senate in 2006.
Kramer said Johanns told him within the past two weeks that he intended to stay on the job as Ag Secretary for four years and not run against Nelson.
Kramer called the Ag position Johanns' ``dream job.''
Johanns' departure from the Senate race opens the Republican field to other contenders including U.S. Representative Tom Osborne.
Hagel Praises Selection
U.S. Senator Chuck Hagel released a statement following the president's announcement saying, “Mike Johanns is one of the most gifted and dedicated public servants I have ever known. President Bush’s nomination of Mike to be Secretary of Agriculture is great news for Nebraska and great news for American agriculture. Mike’s passion for agriculture is personal. It is part of who he is and where he comes from.
Over the last six years, Mike and I have developed an extremely productive working relationship and deeply personal friendship. I look forward to continuing our relationship and working together on behalf of Nebraska. President Bush could not have picked a better person for this job.”
Ag Groups Respond
Several Nebraska farm groups said Governor Mike Johanns would make a strong, experienced leader as agriculture secretary.
Executive vice president of Nebraska Cattlemen Michael Kelsey said his group is thrilled by the choice.
Executive director of the Nebraska Corn Growers Association, Scott Merritt, said it is difficult to lose a leader in the governor's office, but the state and nation will gain a leader with Johanns in Washington.
The selection of Johanns reflects the administration's desire to focus heavily on farm trade over the next four years. As governor, Johanns led a delegation of Nebraska's farm and business leaders on a trade mission to Japan, Taiwan, China, Singapore and a half dozen other countries.
Born in Iowa and raised on a dairy farm, Johanns, 54, became a lawyer and served in county and city government before becoming mayor of Lincoln in 1991. He won the governor's office in 1998 and in 2002 became the first Republican to win re-election in more than four decades.
Johanns graduated with a bachelor's degree from St. Mary's College in Winona, Minn., in 1971. He earned a law degree from Creighton University in 1974 and was a clerk for Nebraska Supreme Court Judge Hale McCown. He practiced law in the mid-1970s and became a partner in the Lincoln law firm of Nelson, Johanns, Morris, Holdeman & Titus in 1977.
First a Democrat, Johanns was elected to, and served as chairman of, the Lancaster Board of Commissioners in 1982. He left the board in 1987 and became a Republican in 1988. Before becoming mayor of Lincoln, he served on the Lincoln City Council in 1989 as an at-large member.
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