Nebraska Gov. Pillen appoints former Gov. Pete Ricketts to Senate seat vacated by Republican Ben Sasse

Newly sworn in Nebraska Gov. Jim Pillen announced Thursday that his predecessor, former Gov. Pete Ricketts, will fill the U.S. Senate seat vacated by Republican Sen. Ben Sasse, who retired last week.

Ricketts, a Republican, will serve for two years before a special Senate election in 2024. An election for a full six-year Senate term would be held in 2026.

“I’m very grateful for this unexpected opportunity to continue to serve the people of Nebraska,” Ricketts said at a press conference.

Pillen said 111 people applied for the vacant seat.

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Pete Ricketts, former governor of Nebraska, was appointed by his successor, Gov. Jim Pillen, to take the U.S. Senate seat vacated by Sen. Ben Sasse.
(Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images, File)

“I don’t believe in placeholders. I believe that every day matters,” Pillen said., adding that “placeholders don’t have any accountability to the people.”

The appointment came even after some fellow Republicans expressed reservations about Pillen selecting a benefactor of his.

Gov. Jim Pillen was sworn in as Nebraska’s governor last week.
(AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack, File)

Ricketts helped Pillen, a veterinarian and hog farmer, win his party’s nomination after a contentious primary race featuring several candidates, including one endorsed by former President Donald Trump.

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Sasse left the Senate two years into his second term to pursue a new opportunity as president of the University of Florida.

U.S. Sen. Ben Sasse, a Republican serving Nebraska, left the Senate last week to pursue an opportunity in academia as president of the University of Florida.
(Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images)

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Sasse has had a complicated relationship with Republicans in Nebraska after his outspoken criticism of Trump. He was one of seven Republican senators to vote to convict the former president of “incitement of insurrection” at his impeachment trial after the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol attack.

Fox News’ Chris Pandolfo and The Associated Press contributed to this report.