Former Nebraska GOP Gov. Pete Ricketts will fill the state's open Senate seat, following Ben Sasse's resignation Sunday to become University of Florida president.
Recently elected GOP Gov. Jim Pillen appointed Ricketts to serve two years as senator, until a special election in 2024. During a press conference Thursday morning in Lincoln, Pillen said there were more than 100 applicants for the seat, nine of whom were interviewed.
"This was a very, very hard decision," Pillen said. "Running statewide elections and winning statewide elections in '24 and '26 is rigorous and demanding, and ultimately that was a big separator." Reelected in 2020, Sasse would have had to run in 2026 for a third term.
"Governor Ricketts assured me that no matter who calls (him) for a different job, he is committed to the United States Senate," he added.
Sasse was in his second term when he first announced his plan to return to academia last October.
One of seven Republicans who voted to convict Donald Trump on impeachment charges related to the Jan. 6, 2021, assault on the Capitol, Sasse often criticized the former president and his influence on the party.
Ricketts said in the press conference that accountability for the federal government will be a top priority for him, along with bringing "civility" and "respect" to a sometimes contentious Senate chamber.
"Here in Nebraska, we have worked to be able to make government work for the people, and that's what has to happen in Washington, D.C.," Ricketts said. "We should not have the expectation that the federal government in doomed to fail."
Government spending and national defense were among the specific issues Ricketts said he hopes to address as a member of Congress. As governor, he said he took already steps to "push back on the Chinese Communist party," including banning the popular social media app TikTok.
Ricketts is expected to be sworn in in two weeks, once the Senate reconvenes Jan. 23.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Nebraska governor appoints replacement for vacated Senate seat