New Nebraska Governor Names Senate Replacement For Sasse

Nebraska’s new Republican Gov. Jim Pillen has named his predecessor, former Gov. Pete Ricketts (R), to the state’s open seat in the U.S. Senate. The position became vacant when former Sen. Ben Sasse (R-NE) resigned with four years remaining in his term to become president of the University of Florida.

Sasse had been in the Senate since being elected in 2014 and then reelected in 2020.

He was one of seven Senate Republicans who voted to convict President Donald Trump in 2021 following his second impeachment by the House under the control of former Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA). That impeachment was handed down for Trump’s alleged involvement in the January 6 protests.

Even with those Republican votes, the Senate failed to reach the two-thirds majority required by the Constitution to remove Trump from office. By the time the Senate voted on the matter, Trump had already left office.

Pillen and Ricketts have been closely aligned. Ricketts served as Nebraska governor from 2015 through last month, when Pillen was sworn in as his successor. Ricketts had endorsed Pillen throughout last year’s election cycle, beginning before the GOP primary election.

Ricketts directed substantial funding to Pillen’s campaign, especially in the GOP primary contest against Charles Herbser, who President Trump endorsed.

Pillen had won the primary when Sasse announced in October that he was leaving the Senate to take the University of Florida position. The political maneuvering to convince Pillen to appoint Ricketts began almost immediately after that.

Sen. Linsey Graham (R-SC) made public calls for Ricketts to receive the appointment at a Nebraska fundraising event just days after Sasse’s announcement. Even before Ricketts expressed an interest in the position publicly, Graham said the outgoing governor “may be moving to Washington for a few years.”

Ricketts’ father is the founder of TD Ameritrade and owns the Chicago Cubs MLB team. The family’s net worth is estimated at $5.3 billion. Ricketts donated $100,000 to the Pillen campaign and gave $1.28 million to Conservative Nebraska, a PAC supporting Pillen.

Ricketts’ appointment will run through the next general Election Day in 2024 and the inauguration date that will follow. A special election will be held for the two years remaining in the term Sasse was elected to.

The appointment will not change the nominal party division of power in the Senate, as Sasse and Ricketts are both Republicans.

Ricketts said this week that he would join the Senate to provide a “strong national defense” and help the U.S. address threats presented by the Chinese Communist Party.