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Republican U.S. senator decides to quit

Sen. Mike Johanns, R-Neb.

Sen. Mike Johanns, R-Neb., who grew up on a farm and had been accumulating influence as part of the Senate banking and agriculture committees, has stunned supporters by announcing that he will retire in January 2015.

He was elected to the U.S. Senate in 2008 after terms as Nebraska’s governor and the nation’s agriculture secretary.

He had also served on the appropriations and veterans affairs committees.

On his website he explains how he was successful in fighting back against one of the provisions of Obamacare, the president’s keynote legislation that essentially sets up a national decision-making process for health care issues.

“After hearing from businesses in Nebraska about a provision in President Obama’s health law that would have created a paperwork nightmare for job creators, Johanns began an effort that gained bipartisan momentum and the 1099 reporting mandate was repealed.”

Politico speculates that he was “considered in a strong position for re-election next year.”

The announcement, the report said, means that while Republicans still are favored to hold onto the seat – it does give “Democrats a shot at a seat they ordinarily would have dismissed.”

He also led the fight against harmful government regulations in the farming industry and continued his work on a long-term, reform-minded farm bill that focuses on risk management tools.

Prior to his service in the U.S. Senate, Johanns worked as the 28th agriculture secretary starting in January 2005.

He was his state’s governor from 1999 to 2005, promoting less government, a better economy, help for families and protection for children.

Johanns served on the Lancaster County Board from 1983 to 1987, and on the Lincoln City Council from 1989 to 1991. He was elected mayor of Lincoln in 1991 and was reelected in 1995 without opposition. He successfully ran for governor in 1998 and was reelected in 2002.

Politico reported Johanns lately had grown frustrated at the ongoing stalemate in Congress – and the inability of the elected members to solve major national problems.

In a letter to constituents, he said it’s just time to quit.

“Words are inadequate to fully express our appreciation for the friendship and support you have given to us over the past three decades. With everything in life, there is a time and a season. 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.”

The letter, also signed by his wife, said, “During these many years, we have cherished our time together. 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.”

The announcement left the terrain unsettled.

“The 800-pound gorilla in the whole puzzle is the governor,” Nebraska Republican consultant Sam Fischer, told Politico. “[Gov. Dave] Heineman would be an absolutely tier one candidate. … Until the governor really gives a direction one way or the other, I would think everybody else will have to think about it.”

Also, the GOP members of the House delegation are potential candidates. They are Jeff Fortenberry, elected in 2004, and Lee Terry and Adrian Smith.

The most recent Democrat to challenge for a Senate seat in Nebraska, former Sen. Bob Kerrey, fell more than 15 points short in his race in 2012 against Sen. Deb Fischer.