Jan 12, 2023 - Politics & Policy

Former Nebraska Gov. Ricketts appointed to U.S. Senate

Nebraska Governor Pete Ricketts speaks to President Trump during a meeting at the White House on April 12, 2018. Photo: Chris Kleponis - Pool/Getty Images

Nebraska Gov. Jim Pillen on Thursday announced the appointment of his predecessor, Republican Pete Ricketts, to fill the U.S. Senate seat vacated by Ben Sasse.

The big picture: Ricketts was seen as the heavy favorite to succeed Sasse, having given Pillen hefty financial support in last year's Republican gubernatorial primary over a Trump-endorsed rival.

  • Ricketts was also the choice of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who told CNN in October: "I've talked to Gov. Ricketts. We're hoping that he will end up in the Senate."
  • Others who applied reportedly include Brett Lindstrom, the third place finisher in last year's gubernatorial primary, and Ann Ashford, a Democratic former U.S. House candidate and widow of former Rep. Brad Ashford.

What he's saying: “I’m very grateful for this unexpected opportunity to be able to continue to serve the people of Nebraska," Ricketts said.

The context: Sasse, who held the seat since 2015, resigned on Jan. 3 to become president of the University of Florida.

  • He garnered attention in recent years for his occasional criticism of former President Trump, culminating in a vote to impeach Trump over the Jan. 6 riot.

The intrigue: Ricketts is the last Republican to have lost a statewide election in Nebraska.

  • In 2006 he fell short of unseating Sen. Ben Nelson, a conservative Democrat, by nearly percentage 30 points.
  • He was elected governor in 2014 and won reelection in 2018.

What to watch: Ricketts will be up for reelection in 2024.

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