Lt. Gov. Rick Sheehy has an opponent for the governor's seat.
Speaker of the Legislature Mike Flood declared his candidacy for Nebraska governor late Monday, pitching himself to voters as an experienced, budget-minded state lawmaker.
The newest Republican hopeful in the 2014 gubernatorial race focused on taxes, spending, job creation and infrastructure as he kicked off his campaign alongside family members during an event in Norfolk, his hometown.
While gubernatorial candidates for the 2014 election cannot officially file with the Secretary of State's office until Dec. 1, 2013, they must file a statement of organization with the Nebraska Accountability and Disclosure Commission if they raise, receive or spend more than $5,000.
Sheehy filed the necessary statement in December, forming the "Sheehy for Governor" political committee. Flood formed "Mike Flood for Nebraska Inc." with the commission in July.
According to the Accountability and Disclosure Commission, Sheehy raised $58,000 in 2011. Candidates are required to file a financial statement at the end of each calendar year.
In an interview earlier Monday, Flood said his eight years as a lawmaker — including six as speaker — have given him a "front-row seat" to the inner workings of state government.
"I've had the opportunity to guide the state through very difficult financial times," said Flood, a 37-year-old attorney who owns two radio stations. "In 2010, I led an effort to cut $500 million from the state budget to meet our budget obligations. I know how to cut spending. I've been there as we lowered taxes. I've made room for tax cuts. I've helped facilitate those, and I feel my experience in the Legislature will serve me well."
Flood emphasized his record as both a fiscal and social conservative. He pointed to his support for the death penalty, his work to pass concealed-carry legislation, and the Legislature's efforts to reroute the controversial Keystone XL oil pipeline around Nebraska's environmentally sensitive Sandhills region.
He also cited a major bill he sponsored in 2010 that became law and banned abortions starting at 20 weeks of pregnancy based on assertions that fetuses feel pain at that stage of development. It was the first law of its kind in the country.
Flood is looking to fill the job held by Gov. Dave Heineman, who will leave office in two years because of term limits. Flood has spent nearly six months traveling the state as he eyed a run for governor, logging more than 26,000 miles and visiting 71 Nebraska communities. He has already created a campaign committee and website.
Flood is the second GOP candidate to join the race.
Sheehy, 53, confirmed in July 2011 that he was also interested in the job, and has traveled the state extensively while fundraising.
Sheehy was sworn in as lieutenant governor in January 2005. Prior to that he was twice elected mayor of Hastings beginning in 2000 and served six years on the Hastings City Council.
Sheehy has the endorsement of Heineman, a popular Republican who was twice elected with more than 70 percent support.
In April, Heineman angrily singled out Flood for his support of a measure that extended government-funded prenatal care benefits to illegal immigrants and other low-income women. Heineman argued that the bill would make Nebraska a haven for illegal immigrants if passed, while Flood said he chose to "err on the side of life" by protecting the health of unborn children.
Another likely prospect to run for governor is state Sen. Charlie Janssen, a Fremont Republican who focused on immigration during his first term in office. Janssen, who was re-elected last week, has introduced controversial legislation that would require voters to show identification at the polls and a proposal modeled after an Arizona law that requires police officers to question the immigration status of those they suspect of being in the country illegally.
No Democratic candidates have confirmed whether they are running, but some have signaled that they are interested. They include state Sen. Steve Lathrop, an Omaha attorney; Lincoln mayor and former state lawmaker Chris Beutler; and former University of Nebraska Regent Chuck Hassebrook.