Photo by George Lauby
Sen. Mike Johanns announced Monday he will not run for reelection in 2014, becoming the the sixth U.S. senator that is leaving Congress. Johanns, 62, has served four years in the Senate. He is a Republican but is often considered a moderate, working with a "gang of eight" senators across party lines on vital issues.
"With everything in life, there is a time and a season," Johanns and his wife Stephanie said in a letter to constitutents. "At the end of this term, we will have been in public service over 32 years. 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. It is time to close this chapter of our lives."
"We want a quieter time with our focus on each other, our family and our faith," he said.
Johanns began his political career in 1983 as a Lancaster County Commissioner. He also served on the Lincoln city council and two terms as the mayor of Lincoln. He became Nebraska governor in 1999 and served until 2005, when he left the governor's office after he was appointed U.S. Secretary of Agriculture by President George W. Bush.
He was the head of the USDA until 2007 when he ran for Senate. He defeated upstart challenger Scott Kleeb in 2008.
"We look forward to the remaining time in the Senate," Johanns said. "It is an honor to have served in so many ways over so many years."
Johanns joins Sens. Tom Harkin, Saxby Chambliss, John D. Rockefeller and Frank Lautenberg, all of whom intend to leave the Senate at the end of 2014. Also former Sen. John Kerry has resigned to become U.S. Secretary of State.
In response to the announcement, the Nebraska Democratic Party wished Sen. Johanns best of luck but expressed concern with the future direction of the state Republican party.
“With Johanns’ retirement, the Nebraska Republican Party continues to define their future by skewing even more to the right," Nebraska Democratic Party State Chair Vince Powers said, noting the expected announcement by Charlie Janseen to run for governor.
Sen. Deb Fischer said she is personally grateful to Johanns for his leadership in the Senate and all he has done in helping to smooth her transition.
"His rare mix of strong leadership and warm collegiality has earned him the respect and admiration of his colleagues from both sides of the aisle," Fischer said. "While I am fortunate to have two more years to serve alongside him, I am sad to see Mike leave the Senate."
"Mike would be the first to tell you that his success is only possible through the counsel, love, and support of his wife, Stephanie," Fischer said.