FREMONT, Neb. — State Sen. Charlie Janssen has a road map to the governor's office — and it starts in Fremont.
Like Gov. Dave Heineman — the man he hopes to follow — Janssen cut his political teeth on the Fremont City Council and then moved down U.S. 77 to the State Capitol in Lincoln. Heineman was state treasurer and lieutenant governor; Janssen is beginning his second term in the Legislature.
Janssen, a 42-year-old Republican, launched his bid for governor Monday with a populist call for limited government and commitments to individual rights and a free enterprise system that helps create opportunities.
Nebraskans' biggest threats, however, come from Washington, D.C., and the likes of President Barack Obama and Sen. Majority Leader Harry Reid, he said to cheers from about 150 supporters.
“Whether we talk about Obamacare, out-of-control spending, a failure to secure our borders, or the attack on our right to bear arms, make no mistake here in Nebraska, if you and I don't stand up together as Nebraskans right now and tell Washington enough is enough, D.C. liberals will continue to take away our individual freedoms.”
The contest for the governor's job in 2014 was thrown open by the resignation earlier this month of Lt. Gov. Rick Sheehy, who had been considered the front-runner. Heineman will vacate the office in two years because of term limits.
Janssen and his wife, Ellen, started to seriously consider his candidacy about six months ago. The decision to run was made three months ago, he said. He dismissed Sheehy's resignation as the tipping point, saying the concerns and ideas of Nebraskans were the driving factors.
Janssen has been an advocate for tougher immigration laws but has been unsuccessful in getting such legislation passed. He has pushed for requirements that voters present identification at polling places, and he is seeking to rescind a law passed last year that provides state-funded prenatal care for the unborn children of illegal immigrants.
Janssen said immigration issues aren't his only focus, but “Nebraskans believe in the rule of law.”
“Nebraskans want leaders that aren't afraid to take tough issues head on,” he said.
Flanked by a nine-member honor guard of military veterans at Midland University, Janssen laid out a biography of a small-town high school graduate who joined the Navy, served in a combat zone during the first Gulf War, worked his way through college, started a business and took Nebraskans' principles to the Legislature.
“We need leadership based on the core principle that we can have more freedom and more opportunities, by empowering people instead of empowering government,” he said.
Janssen grew up in Nickerson, Neb., and graduated from Logan View High School before enlisting. He served two tours as a search and rescue swimmer aboard a guided missile frigate in Kuwait. He is a graduate of Wayne (Neb.) State College.
He is the majority owner of RTG Medical, a company that provides temporary health care workers for hospitals and other medical institutions. He is married and has three children.
Janssen plans to make campaign appearances Tuesday and Wednesday in Hastings and Kearney, an aide said.
Janssen pledged to address taxes, regulatory burdens and economic development and job creation as part of an exchange of ideas with Nebraska voters.
Janssen's announcement came during the Legislature's Presidents Day recess, and he quoted Abraham Lincoln's philosophy that government should do what the citizens cannot do for themselves, and nothing more.
Janssen said Heineman has laid the foundation and provided the necessary tools. Janssen called for eliminating the “tax burden” on Social Security income and veterans' benefits.
He advocated creating a sunset commission to research the economic costs of all state regulations and identify which are preventing the state's economy from growing. He said Nebraska needs to attract top-tier talent from other states and retain homegrown talent.
He called for an eight-year plan to work with business and community leaders to take advantage of entrepreneurial and industrial opportunities.
Janssen appealed for help, support and prayers to build a brighter future for generations of Nebraskans to come.
Then he stepped into the crowd, took a pink-clad baby into his hands and planted the first kiss of the campaign.
The infant was his 3-month-old daughter, Scarlett Charlize Janssen.
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Tim Clare won't run for governor; Beau McCoy pondering 'options'
LINCOLN — State Sen. Charlie Janssen is the first candidate to enter the race to succeed term-limited Gov. Dave Heineman since former Lt. Gov. Rick Sheehy dropped out of the race.
The primary election is 15 months away.
One other potential Republican candidate, Lincoln attorney Tim Clare, has opted against running for governor after extensive talks with his wife. He said Monday that his youngest children will be graduating from high school in the next two years, and he doesn't want to miss that time in their lives.
In addition, Clare said, he is committed to finishing his term as a University of Nebraska regent and plans to seek re-election in 2014. He also feels a loyalty to his legal clients, some of whom he has worked with for 20 years or more.
State Sen. Beau McCoy of Omaha, who has been mentioned as a possible GOP candidate, said Monday that he is going to “take the next couple months to think through other opportunities and options” for political involvement. McCoy was re-elected last year to his second and last term as a state legislator.
On the Democratic side, potential candidates include State Sen. Steve Lathrop of Omaha and Chuck Hassebrook of Lyons, a former NU regent.
— Martha Stoddard