Guessing what Gov. Dave Heineman will do is a dangerous game.
He’s an unpreditable guy, as evidenced by his recent selection of Lavon Heidemann as lieutentant governor. No one saw that coming.
And remember when he shocked everyone by calling for a special legislative session on the Keystone XL pipeline?
There are other examples. Overall, it’s safe to say that Heineman, a former Army ranger, plays his cards very close to the vest before he plays them.
But there’s some indications out there that he might seriously be looking at running for the U.S. Senate. At very least, he’s looking more seriously than he did two years ago.
Back then, when U.S. Sen. Ben Nelson, D-Neb., decided to retire, the Senate seat was Heineman’s to take. But the governor decided to pass in 2012, partly because he doesn’t like Washington, D.C., partly because he prefers being a leader to a legislator, and partly because he had more work to do as governor. His decision, of course, opened the way to the surprise election of former State Sen. Deb Fischer.
Now, with the pending retirement of U.S. Sen. Mike Johanns, R-Neb., Heineman is taking another look, and maybe a more serious look. And there’s reasons to take a more serious look.
Heineman, 64, has two years left to serve as governor. So the clock is ticking. It’s no fun being a lame duck, and, by all appearances, he’s going to have a hard time getting major initiatives through a more and more independent State Legislature. Look at what happened to his bold tax reform plan this year. It was turned into a study.
What is the governor going to do when he leaves the Mansion? That’s a good question. The rumor mill has been passing around talk for several months that he might become president of the University of Nebraska. But J.B. Milliken already holds that job, and there’s no public indication that he’s going anywhere. So there’s no solid post-governor plan for the governor.
Now, we hear that the governor grew frustrated with the current tone of things in Washington during a recent visit there for the National Governor’s Association meeting. And there’s a lot of talk about the need for a Republican resurgence, after failing to win the White House last fall.
Two years ago, Heineman was a long shot to run for Senate. He may not be this time.