Reports: Nebraska Sen. Ben Sasse expected to resign

University of Florida announced him as sole choice for its president
It's being reported that Senator Sasse will travel to Gainsville, Florida Monday.
Published: Oct. 6, 2022 at 2:57 PM CDT|Updated: Oct. 7, 2022 at 10:52 AM CDT
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LINCOLN, Neb. (WOWT) - Nebraska Republican Sen. Ben Sasse is reportedly expected to resign to take a job leading the University of Florida.

The university issued a statement Thursday naming Sasse as their recommendation for sole finalist for its president by unanimous recommendation from its Board of Trustees.

Calling the nation’s single biggest challenge “the radical disruption of work,” Sasse tweeted his official statement about the announcement on his personal Twitter account along with a link to a story from the Tampa Bay Times.

Sasse said in a statement that he’s been pursued by other universities recently, but that the University of Florida is different.

“UF is the most important institution in the nation’s most economically dynamic state. Washington partisanship isn’t going to solve these workforce challenges — new institutions and entrepreneurial communities are going to have to spearhead this work. If UF wants to go big, I’m excited about the wide range of opportunities.”

Excerpt of statement from Sen. Ben Sasse

According to the university’s release, Sasse is expected to visit the campus in Gainesville on Monday “to meet with students, faculty and other members of the University community.” Those participating in the panel are able to submit questions online.

Being a university president would have some familiarity for Sasse; he was president of Midland University in Fremont for five years. But that’s a college with around 1,800 students, whereas UF has 50,000.

Still, UF thinks he’s the right fit.

“This is right for the University of Florida, right for the state of Florida and right for the Sasse family,” Rahul Patel, chair of the Presidential Search Committee, said in the university’s release. “Ben brings intellectual curiosity, a belief in the power and potential of American universities, and an unmatched track record of leadership spanning higher education, government and the private sector.”

Politico also reported the news Thursday afternoon, citing “two people familiar with the Nebraska Republican’s plans.”

Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts issued a statement in support of the UF decision.

“I appreciate Senator Sasse‘s service to our state and nation. He would make an excellent president for the University of Florida. He has one of the most conservative voting records in the Senate, and we need more conservative voices in our universities. Senator Sasse is also incredibly smart and has the experience and a clear passion for higher education. I wish him luck as the University of Florida makes their consideration.”

Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts

Sasse was one of seven senators who voted to impeach then-President Trump for inciting an insurrection on Jan. 6, 2021, at the U.S. Capitol. Sasse said it was a vote of conscience and that Trump brought the country dangerously close to a Constitutional crisis.

U.S. Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., issued a statement of support on Thursday:

“Senator Ben Sasse is a whip-smart and passionate leader. He has been a tremendous Senator, a dogged advocate for his fellow Nebraskans, and a valuable member of our Republican Conference. He is also a dedicated husband and father, a scholar, and a sought-after leader with interests and talents that span many fields. The University of Florida is a huge and important institution that would be lucky to have Ben at its helm. I am one of ninety-nine Senators who would be sorry to lose Ben as a colleague, but I trust my friend to pursue continued public service in the way that he deems best.”

What happens next?

Sasse was elected Nebraska senator in 2014, handily winning re-election in 2020; that term is up in 2026.

Should he resign as expected, his replacement would be appointed by the governor of Nebraska, per state statute. Depending on the timing of his official announcement, that could come from Gov. Pete Ricketts or from whomever wins the state’s gubernatorial election in November.

The Nebraska Secretary of State’s Office said that while there isn’t a time limit on the decision, a 50-50 split in the Senate creates a sense of urgency.

The appointee would serve for two years, until the 2024 election, the SOS office said.

There’s also nothing in the statute that would prevent Ricketts, whose term as governor ends in January, from appointing himself.

State Sen. Carol Blood who is the Democratic nomination for Nebraska governor gave her thoughts on the senate seat:

Secretary of State Bob Evnen issued a statement on the matter:

“We have received many questions about how the U.S. Senate seat held by Senator Ben Sasse would be filled if he resigns from the Senate. Based upon news reports about when the vacancy is likely to occur, it appears that Section 32-565(3) of the Nebraska Revised Statutes would apply to the filling of the vacancy.

“Within 45 days of a vacancy arising, the Governor would appoint a qualified Nebraskan to fill the vacancy. That person would serve until January 2025. An election would be held in 2024 to fill the seat for the remaining two years of the term. The person appointed by the Governor to fill the seat would be eligible to run at that time.

“An election for the regular six-year term of the seat would be held in 2026.”

Bob Evnen, Nebraska Secretary of State

Political Reporter Brian Mastre, Digital Director Gina Dvorak, and 10/11 Now Digital Director Amber Little contributed to this report.