Nebraska Senator Ben Nelson Announces Retirement

US Senator Ben Nelson

Curt Casper

OMAHA (KPTM) - US Senator Ben Nelson of Nebraska announced Tuesday he will not seek re-election in 2012 for his seat.

In a statement released Tuesday afternoon, Senator Nelson said, "I'll be forever grateful to the citizens of Nebraska for the great honor to serve this great country and represent our great state." (full statement below)

Nebraska Attorney General Jon Bruning, State Treasurer Don Stenberg and Nebraska State Senator Deb Fischer of Valentine are some Republicans who plan to run for Nelson's seat.

Senator Nelson announced he wasn't going to run for re-election by posting a video on YouTube.

"I will look for new ways to serve our state and nation," Nelson said.

Fox 42 News spoke to Senator Nelson outside his home in Omaha. Nelson made the decision with his family over the weekend. He ultimately just wants to spend more time with them.

"It is less about me leaving the senate and more about the things I have put off," Nelson said.

But with this announcement, a cloud of smoke surrounds the 2012 elections.

Professor of Political Science at the University of Nebraska-Omaha, Randall Adkins expects this senate seat race to become heavily funded. His best estimate was 10 million dollars.

"Just because it is one of the top two or three most competitive races in the country," he said.

And Republicans officials like Mark Fahleson agree this will still be a tough fight. They just wanted nelson out of Washington.

"Nebraskans really wanted him to move on and he made that decision today so we thank him for his service," Fahleson said.

Nelson was the last vote that allowed the health care bill to be passed in 2009.

His vote has been highly scrutinized and many believe that vote harmed his 2012 campaign.

"History will unfortunately for senator nelson, will label him as the senator who cast the decisive vote for Obamacare," Fahleson said.

But Nelson says Washington wasn't the reason why he left.

"So, no I am not running from the senate I am running to do something else I want and I still have a year," Nelson said.

Fox 42 News was also able to speak with Jane Kleeb of Bold Nebraska and she said the Democrats will need to seek a candidate with a name. She said the candidate should be someone who knows the campaign trail and can raise money in a short time period.

But Republican officials say that won't matter. They believe a Republican will hold the seat after the 2012 elections.

Nebraskans will choose their Republican Candidate in the Primary, which is May 15th.

Statement from US Senator Ben Nelson, Nebraska on his plans for 2012:

I've had the honor of serving as your Governor and United States Senator. During this time we've accomplished a great deal.

As Governor I helped our state experience unprecedented economic growth, cut taxes and left state government with a surplus.

As your Senator, we've opened new markets for our agricultural and manufacturing products; expanded the use of ethanol; secured STRATCOM's future; built new veterans' clinics, a soon-to-be veterans' hospital in Omaha, and research facilities at our universities; and kept taxes low.

There is much more that needs to be done to keep America strong. And while I relish the opportunity to undertake the work that lies ahead, I also feel it's time for me to step away from elective office, spend more time with my family, and look for new ways to serve our state and nation. Therefore, I am announcing today that I will not seek reelection. Simply put: It is time to move on.

I encourage those who will follow in my footsteps to look for common ground and to work together in bipartisan ways to do what's best for the country, not just one political party.

Public office is a place for public service, not personal profit. It's about promoting the common good, not the agenda of the radical right or the radical left. It's about fairness for all, not privileges for the few. And, it's about protecting the rights of individuals, even if it angers the majority. I hope and believe I have fulfilled these principles to the best of my ability.

I'll be forever grateful to the citizens of Nebraska for the great honor to serve this great country and represent our great state. Thank you and God bless.