The governor's race in Nebraska grew more interesting Thursday as State Sen. Annette Dubas of Fullerton jumped into the Democratic primary.
“By the end of September I'll be ready to come out with all the details of my campaign,'' she said.
Dubas, a farmer and rancher, had long been considered a potential candidate for governor, but her decision to enter the 2014 race came as a surprise. Most Democrats had focused their attention in recent months on the hope that State Sen. Steve Lathrop of Omaha would run.
Lathrop said Thursday that he plans to make a decision soon. By all indications it appears that he will not be running. Sources have said Dubas would not run if Lathrop were to get into the race.
Dubas' entry guarantees a primary fight and one of the most exciting governor's races in decades on both sides. Dubas will be running against Democrat Chuck Hassebrook of Lyons.
At least four Republicans are expected to run, making for a full house in the GOP primary. State Sens. Tom Carlson of Holdrege and Charlie Janssen of Fremont have already announced plans to run.
Charles Herbster, owner of a Kansas City, Mo., manufacturing company and a Falls City cattle ranch, has not formally announced, but he has formed a campaign committee and hired staff.
Omaha businessman Pete Ricketts, whose 2006 bid for the U.S. Senate was unsuccessful, is expected to jump into the governor's race in September.
Gov. Dave Heineman cannot run for re-election in 2014 because of term limits.
Dubas, 57, has served in the Legislature for seven years. She is chairwoman of the Legislature's Transportation and Telecommunications Committee. She is a former member of the Fullerton school board and the Nance County Planning and Zoning Board.
Dubas and her husband, Ronald, have been in farming and ranching for decades.
“We've done it all our whole married lives,'' said Dubas, who has been married for 37 years.
Democrats were thrilled with the news of Dubas' candidacy, saying a strong primary challenge would do wonders for motivating Democratic supporters.
One of the last times the party had a strong primary was in 1990, when a political newcomer named Ben Nelson defeated six other Democrats and went on to win the governor's office.
“This is outstanding,” said Vince Powers, chairman of the Nebraska Democratic Party. “A competitive primary focuses attention on the candidates.”
Powers also said a competitive primary will motivate a candidate to get out early, build an organization and begin to build support. The winner will be in a stronger position to run against the Republican candidate in the fall, Powers said.
“From a political standpoint, it's great. Both Annette and Chuck have to go out and campaign. They have to get their organizations together, and they're going to have to be sharp,” Powers said.
Even Republicans were happy with Dubas' entry into the race.
“I think it's really healthy for (the Democrats) to have a competitive primary,” said J.L. Spray, chairman of the Nebraska Republican Party. “Any time you can get people talking about ideas and issues, that's good.”
Spray also predicted that this would be one of the most exciting governor's races in a long time. “It's going to be incredible,” he said. It's going to be fun and it's going to be busy.”