Nebraska Senate candidates feeling optimistic as Pillen mulls appointment

Outgoing Gov. Ricketts leads a slate of familiar names in Nebraska politics
Want to be Nebraska's next senator? Now's your chance.
Published: Dec. 14, 2022 at 6:12 PM CST
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - Want to be Nebraska’s next U.S. Senator? You have nine days to apply before the submission window closes.

Governor-elect Jim Pillen said he’s evaluating candidates as we speak. The current governor, Pete Ricketts, who supported Pillen’s campaign, is among the applicants.

But is it a foregone conclusion who Pillen will pick? 6 News posed that question to a couple of people who submitted their applications.

Is it a foregone conclusion who Pillen will pick? 6 News posed that question to a couple of people who submitted their applications.

There are only 100 men and women serving in the U.S. Senate — no doubt it’s a prestigious position. When Nebraska Sen. Ben Sasse resigns in early January so he can take the reigns at the University of Florida, that leaves one of those all-important seats vacant.

6 News has compiled a list of those who have applied and those who have said they intend to submit the paperwork to Pillen.

Gov. Pete Ricketts remains the heaviest hitter on the list; he is term-limited in a couple of weeks.

Other republicans include retired Air Force Lt. Col. John Glen Weaver, who recently ran for Congressman Jeff Fortenberry’s U.S. House seat.

Larry Bolinger has unsuccessfully run for Congress and Attorney General the last few years.

On the Democratic side: Ann Ashford, who has run for Congress; and Angie Philips, who has run for U.S. Senate in Nebraska before.

Ricketts’ time as Nebraska’s governor is nearly over. He said his conservative leadership — running government more like a business — is what is needed in Washington, D.C.

To many insiders — and outsiders — Ricketts is the heavy favorite to replace Sasse, whose time in D.C. mirrors the eight-years Ricketts has spent as Nebraska’s CEO. After all, Ricketts spent millions supporting Pillen’s candidacy — and it’s Pillen’s decision who spends the next two years as the state’s junior senator.

6 News asked some of the other candidates if they see it the same way.

Republican Weaver believes his military background has him positioned well, and said he doesn’t think Pillen has made up his mind.

“This isn’t about me or Pete Ricketts. I think he’d make a great senator. I just think I’d be a heck of a lot better, with better experience,” Weaver said. “It’s not a giveaway; Governor-elect Pillen is asking for applications, so I think he’s authentic in wanting to find the best person.”

Political observers say it’s even a longer shot for a Democrat to get the appointment since the guy picking is a Republican.

Democrat Ashford, wife of late Congressman Brad Ashford, said the new incoming governor has a more independent streak than we may realize.

“I think we need to realize we need to give Governor-elect Pillen more credit than that,” she said. “He is a person who can think on his own and make his own decisions. And he’ll make the decision he thinks is right for the people of Nebraska.”

With nine days before the application deadline, 6 News asked Pillen’s team how many people have submitted for the seat and were told it was too early in the process to answer that.