Ben Sasse makes it official, will resign U.S. Senate seat Jan. 8

By: - December 5, 2022 5:14 pm

Sen. Ben Sasse answers questions from the University of Florida’s Board of Trustees before they vote on him to serve as UF’s next president on Nov. 1, 2022. (Screenshot/University of Florida)

LINCOLN — U.S. Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Neb., made it official Monday afternoon, submitting a resignation letter that says he will leave office on Jan. 8.

That would be only three days after Gov.-elect Jim Pillen takes the oath of office.

Pillen, a Columbus pork producer and veterinarian, is widely expected to appoint current Gov. Pete Ricketts to the post.

Ricketts was key backer of Pillen

Ricketts, a fellow Republican, endorsed Pillen and was a key financial backer in his tough Republican primary victory in May over Falls City businessman Charles Herbster and State Sen. Brett Lindstrom of Omaha.

GOP gubernatorial candidate Jim Pillen received more than $1 million in support from Gov. Pete Ricketts for the hotly contested Republican primary. (Aaron Sanderford/Nebraska Examiner)

Immediately after Sasse’s resignation letter became public, Pillen issued a press release, seeking applicants for the Senate vacancy.

“Governor-elect Pillen will begin receiving applications and evaluating candidates immediately,” the release said, adding that he wanted Nebraska’s congressional delegation to return “to full strength” as soon as possible.

A deadline of Dec. 23 was set for applications.

Ricketts did not immediately respond to messages Monday afternoon asking whether he planned to apply. Previously, he has said he would defer the decision to Pillen, and would not say if he would apply.

‘An honor to serve’

In a one-paragraph resignation letter, addressed to Ricketts and copied to Pillen, Sasse wrote that it was “an honor to serve the people of Nebraska for the past eight years.”

“I am confident that Governor-elect  Pillen will appoint someone that will serve Nebraskans well in Washington,” Sasse wrote.

Last month, the University of Florida Board of Governors voted to affirm Sasse’s appointment as the next president of the university in Gainesville, Florida.

Sasse, 50, had served as president of Midland University in Fremont before he was elected to the Senate in 2014. His first day at Florida will be Jan. 6.

Florida much larger university

He overcame some opposition from student organizations over his past opposition to same-sex marriage.

Some also questioned if he had the experience to run a much larger university. Florida’s enrollment is 50,000 students, compared to 1,400 at Midland.

Even before the ink dried on Sasse’s resignation letter, one candidate threw his hat into the ring — retired Lt. Col. John Weaver of Omaha, an unsuccessful candidate for U.S. Congress this year, wrote to Pillen that he would represent conservative values if selected.

Applications are also being sought to fill the Nebraska Legislature seat being vacated by State Sen. Mike Hilgers of Lincoln. Hilgers, who represents District 21 on the north side of Lincoln, was elected Nebraska Attorney General.


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Paul Hammel
Paul Hammel

Senior Reporter Paul Hammel has covered the Nebraska Legislature and Nebraska state government for decades. He started his career reporting for the Omaha Sun and later, editing the Papillion Times group in suburban Omaha. He joined the Lincoln Journal-Star as a sports enterprise reporter, and then a roving reporter covering southeast Nebraska. In 1990, he was hired by the Omaha World-Herald as a legislative reporter. Later, for 15 years, he roamed the state covering all kinds of news and feature stories. In the past decade, he served as chief of the Lincoln Bureau and enterprise reporter. Paul has won awards for reporting from Great Plains Journalism, the Associated Press, Nebraska Newspaper Association and Suburban Newspapers of America. A native of Ralston, Nebraska, he is vice president of the John G. Neihardt Foundation, a member of the Nebraska Hop Growers and a volunteer caretaker of Irvingdale Park in Lincoln.