Nebraska’s political world has seized on the idea that Sen. Ben Sasse could be tapped to replace the departing president of the University of Nebraska, potentially creating an open seat in the solidly Republican state, according to local news reports.
Sasse, a Republican, has not said anything to indicate he would pursue the position. But his academic resume and the uncertainly about his plans put him on insiders’ lists of potential successors to University President Hank Bounds, who announced his retirement on Monday, according to the Omaha World-Herald and the Lincoln Journal Star.
Sasse served as the president of another Nebraska institution, Midland University, and had a long and illustrious academic career before he was elected to his first term in the Senate in 2014.
He was recently appointed to the Senate Select Intelligence Committee, but he has not said whether he will seek reelection in 2020.
Sasse’s office released a statement praising the university and Bounds Monday.
“A lot of states have schools that they’re proud of, but no state is more closely associated with its great university system than Nebraska. ... Our future is bright,” it read, according to reports.
Sasse’s spokesman told World Herald that, “the statement was adequate for now.”
Sasse has reportedly been raising money to position himself for a potential re-election campaign and the Journal-Star wrote that, “the prospect of any big-name Republican primary opposition appears to have faded away.”
The paper noted that a retirement announcement from Sasse, “would upend the political landscape in Nebraska, leading to appointment of a new U.S. senator by Gov. Pete Ricketts to complete Sasse’s term, and a wide-open contest in 2020.”
Sasse’s seat is rated Solid Republican by Inside Elections with Nathan Gonzales. President Donald Trump carried the state by 25 points over Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton in 2016.
Sasse has taught at the University of Texas at Austin. He studied at Harvard University, St. John’s College, Yale University and the University of Oxford.
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