Two plum political jobs in Nebraska were thrown wide open Saturday with the sudden resignation of Lt. Gov. Rick Sheehy.
Political observers and others wasted no time in speculating about whom Gov. Dave Heineman would choose to replace Sheehy as his second in command.
And some Republicans were taking a second look at whether to run for governor in 2014.
“It's an entirely different landscape at this point. People who perhaps you would never have considered as potential candidates are now looking at it,” said Mark Fahleson, chairman of the Nebraska Republican Party.
Sheehy resigned after a World-Herald investigation revealed he had used his state-issued cellphone to call four women, other than his wife, more than 2,000 times over the past four years.
Sheehy was the first Republican to announce his bid for governor and was seen by some as formidable because he had Heineman's backing.
Heineman endorsed Sheehy early on, giving him instant credibility with GOP donors.
Sheehy has not formally pulled out of the race, but few, including Heineman, thought he could survive the unfolding events. “I doubt he will continue his campaign for governor and, no, I would not support him under the circumstances,” Heineman said.
Sheehy has been unreachable since becoming aware of The World-Herald's investigation.
State Sen. Charlie Janssen of Fremont is expected to formally announce his candidacy this month, and it's hard to believe Janssen will be the last.
Other Republicans whose names are being bandied about include State Auditor Mike Foley, Omaha businessman Pete Ricketts, former State Sen. Phil Erdmann and Tim Clare, a Lincoln attorney and a close friend of the governor's who is a member of the University of Nebraska Board of Regents.
Several Republicans continued to hope Speaker of the Legislature Mike Flood would reconsider his decision to exit the race. Flood dropped out in December after his wife, Mandi, was diagnosed with breast cancer. Some Republicans hope his wife will recover quickly, allowing Flood to jump back into the race.
The race “is going to be very fluid for quite a while,” Fahleson said.
No Democrats have entered the race, but State Sen. Steve Lathrop of Omaha and former NU Regent Chuck Hassebrook were “looking at it hard,” said Vince Powers, chairman of the Nebraska Democratic Party.
Hassebrook ran for U.S. Senate last year but dropped out after former U.S. Sen. Bob Kerrey attempted a comeback bid. Hassebrook is executive director of the Center for Rural Affairs in Lyons.
As for lieutenant governor, Fahleson said he expected Heineman to name someone who would serve the remainder of Sheehy's term but who would have no plans to run for governor.
Possible candidates for lieutenant governor whose names surfaced Saturday include Bellevue Mayor Rita Sanders, State Sen. Beau McCoy of Omaha, Lincoln attorney Bob Evnen and Lauren Kintner, director of the governor's Policy Research Office.
Contact the writer: 402-444-1309, email@example.com