Former State Sen. Mike Flood's flirtation with a return to the governor's race has ended, with the Republican saying he will remain on the sidelines as his wife recovers from a breast-cancer battle.
Flood's decision to forego a 2014 run means that the race is now as wide open as it has been in recent years. Several more state lawmakers and others are expected to take a second look at a campaign in the wake of Flood's definitive exit.
“A number of individuals were waiting on the sidelines, waiting for Mike's decision. And, now that Mike has made his decision, a number of people will look at the race,” said Mark Fahleson, former chairman of the Nebraska Republican Party.
Some who are considering a run including State Auditor Mike Foley, State Sen. Tom Carlson of Holdrege, State Sen. Bob Krist of Omaha and Omaha businessman Pete Ricketts, who made an unsuccessful bid for U.S. Senate in 2006. All are Republicans.
So far, two people have already gotten into the race: former University of Nebraska Regent Chuck Hassebrook of Lyons, a Democrat, and State Sen. Charlie Janssen of Fremont, a Republican
Flood, who is the former speaker of the Nebraska Legislature, was one of the first people to get into the race last year. He was considered to be the heavyweight in the race, with contacts throughout the state and a proven ability to raise money.
However, he suddenly dropped out of the race in December after his wife, Mandi, was diagnosed with breast cancer.
In recent months, speculation began to grow that Flood would re-enter the race, based on reports that all of Mandi Flood's cancer had been removed. She has undergone chemotherapy and is finishing up radiation treatment.
Flood said they have every reason to believe that Mandi Flood is cancer free. But, he said, the next two years will be crucial. “The biggest risk is in the two years after diagnosis, so the next 18 months are key. She'll be having checkups every three months,” Flood said. “But as far as we're concerned, she's cancer-free and she'll stay that way.”
At age 38, Flood also acknowledged he has time to run for office again in the future.
“We have every reason to be optimistic,” Flood said in an interview with the Norfolk Daily News. “But a gubernatorial campaign is an everyday thing. I didn't want to be 300 miles away if we received some discouraging news.”
Gov. Dave Heineman, who has spoken to Flood about his decision, said he believes Flood has a bright future.
“Mike, I believe, made the right decision. He put his wife and family first,” the governor said. “There are just too many unknowns and uncertainties yet in their situation and he decided it would be best to make it very clear he will not be a candidate for governor ... this time.”
It was Nov. 7, 2012, when Flood announced at a gathering in Norfolk that he was a Republican candidate for governor in 2014, hoping to succeed Gov. Dave Heineman. But shortly thereafter, Mandi Flood was diagnosed with breast cancer. On Dec. 6, Flood announced that he was withdrawing from the race.
Since then, she has gone through chemotherapy and had a double mastectomy and reconstructive surgery at Faith Regional Health Services in Norfolk. Physicians at the University of Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha have been of assistance to the family.
Tests after the chemotherapy concluded that it had not eliminated all of the cancer, Flood said. Subsequent surgery, however, did eliminate the remaining cancer cells.
Currently, Mandi Flood is about halfway through radiation treatments and should finish those in late July.
“They've been going good,” he said. “The doctors are optimistic.”
Mandi Flood will start a new job with the Norfolk Area Chamber of Commerce later this month, something she's looking forward to, he said.
“I've received so many encouraging calls and letters,” Mike Flood said. “But now I'm home every day, with the family, and that's good.”
This report includes material from the World-Herald News Service.