OMAHA - Agriculture Secretary Michael O. Johanns intends to resign today to prepare for a Senate campaign in 2008, Republican officials said yesterday, giving the party a welcome dose of good political news.
Johanns is to be joined by President Bush to make an announcement about his future this morning, the secretary's spokeswoman Terri Teuber said, not commenting on what Johanns would say.
State Republicans, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the announcement had not been made, said Johanns intends to seek the seat held by retiring Republican Senator Chuck Hagel.
Johanns was heavily recruited to run by senior Republicans, struggling with a difficult political environment 14 months before the 2008 elections.
The GOP must defend 22 of 34 Senate seats on the ballot next year, a task complicated by President Bush's poor ratings and widespread public unhappiness with the Iraq War.
Incumbent Republicans in New Hampshire, Maine, Oregon, and Minnesota face difficult challenges, and other GOP retirements in Virginia and Colorado give Democrats additional targets. Democrats have been recruiting former Senator Bob Kerrey to return home to Nebraska to run for Hagel's seat.
Republican officials said numerous prominent Republicans had urged Johanns to run, including Senator Mitch McConnell, the party leader, and Hagel, who is stepping down after two terms.
Johanns, 57, was mayor of Lincoln from 1991 to 1998, when he was elected governor. He won re-election to a second term in 2002 and became agriculture secretary in 2005.
In resigning, Johanns would leave his post before Congress passes a new farm bill, a goal the secretary has said he wanted to reach by the end of the year. The politically popular legislation give billions in aid to farmers and pays for nutrition programs.