Surprises in governor's race: Herbster out; McCoy in

Falls City Republican Chuck Herbster, who pulled out of the Nebraska governor's race Friday, and his wife, Judy.

One Republican bowed out of the Nebraska governor's race Friday, but several more are either pondering a bid or gearing up for a run in what is expected to be a free-for-all campaign in Nebraska.

Chuck Herbster called a halt to his short-lived run Friday, citing his wife's ill health. She had undergone open-heart surgery earlier this year.

Almost immediately after Herbster issued his news release, State Sen. Beau McCoy of Omaha announced he would run.

McCoy may not be the last person to jump into the race.

Omaha businessman Pete Ricketts is expected to enter the fray soon, while others are seriously mulling a bid, including State Auditor Mike Foley and State Treasurer Don Stenberg.

“I don't have any reason to believe either the field for governor or the field for Senate is set at this point. I think there are still people considering it, privately,” said J.L. Spray, chairman of the Nebraska Republican Party.

Both the governor's race and the Senate race are wide open in Nebraska, without either an incumbent or clear front-runner in the field.

So far, five candidates are running for governor: Democrats Chuck Hassebrook of Lyons and Annette Dubas of Fullerton; and Republicans Charlie Janssen of Fremont, Tom Carlson of Holdrege and McCoy.

Three Republicans are running for Senate: former State Treasurer Shane Osborn, Omaha lawyer Bart McLeay and Midland University President Ben Sasse.

Omaha banker Sid Dinsdale is taking a hard look at Senate and giving indications of being a candidate. A spokesman for Dinsdale said he planned to make an announcement in mid-September.

No Democrat has surfaced yet for the Senate seat.

McCoy wasted little time Friday in announcing a run in the wake of Herbster's departure.

He began to call Republican officials and others shortly after Herbster's announcement to inform them of his candidacy.

“He is calling supporters and other officeholders in the Republican Party, and he is informing them today he is entering the race,” said Kent Grisham, a former spokesman for Herbster, who says he now works for McCoy.

Herbster's short-lived campaign had intrigued many in the Republican Party. He was a virtual unknown but indicated he had the financial resources to mount an aggressive campaign.

In recent weeks, he and his staff had begun hiring a large campaign staff that included Carlos Castillo, a respected political operative who served as Gov. Dave Heineman's campaign manager in his successful race against former Nebraska football coach Tom Osborne.

Herbster had never formally entered the race, but he hit the campaign trail in early July and had been walking in parades and showing up at party functions. Friday morning, he met with Spray and announced he would leave the race.

Herbster's wife, Judy, had surgery in Atlanta for a heart aneurysm earlier this year. Herbster said when he started campaigning he thought his wife had recuperated. However, she recently had a relapse, he said.

“Judy has suffered several complications, and her recuperation will be a longer and more difficult process than we expected,” Herbster said in a press release. “My love and biblical obligations to her require that I discontinue my campaign for the Nebraska governorship.”

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