LINCOLN, Neb. - U.S. Sen. Mike Johanns of Nebraska announced Monday that he will not seek re-election in 2014, saying he wants a "quieter time" to focus on his family following a busy political career that included stints as governor and President George W. Bush's agriculture secretary.
The Nebraska Republican announced that he was retiring from the Senate after one term. He said he and his wife, Stephanie, had decided that the time has come "to close this chapter of our lives."
"During these many years, we have cherished our time together," the couple said in an email statement. "So as we think about the next stage of our lives, we want a quieter time with our focus on each other, our family and our faith. We are also confident that there will be many more opportunities to serve our state and our nation."
Johanns, 62, joined the U.S. Senate in 2009. He served as agriculture secretary under Bush and was Nebraska's governor from 1999 to 2005.
The announcement came as a surprise to many GOP insiders. Several Republican office-holders praised Johanns for his collegiality and thoughtfulness in a deeply divided Washington.
"I am personally grateful for Mike's leadership in the Senate and all he has done in helping to smooth my transition," said U.S. Sen. Deb Fischer, a Republican who was sworn in for her first term in January. "His rare mix of strong leadership and warm collegiality has earned him the respect and admiration of his colleagues on both sides of the aisle. While I am fortunate to have two more years to serve alongside him, I am sad to see Mike leave the Senate."
Johanns' departure could leave an opening for Republican Gov. Dave Heineman, who is leaving office in 2014 because of term limits. Heineman was courted by national party officials after Democratic U.S. Sen. Ben Nelson announced in 2011 that he was retiring. But Heineman declined to enter the race at the time, saying he wanted to focus on his work as governor.
In a statement, Heineman called Johanns "a remarkably outstanding public official."
"We are forever thankful for his commitment to serving our citizens, in particular, our farmers and ranchers, and our veterans," the governor said.
His decision to retire opens a new 2014 race in Nebraska, a solidly red state where Republicans hold all the congressional seats.