Johanns is planning a bid to replace Sen. Hagel.
WASHINGTON (CNN) – CNN has learned that Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns will be resigning from the Bush cabinet to make a run for the U.S. Senate in Nebraska.
Two Republican sources tell CNN Senior National Correspondent John King that Johanns has informed the White House he plans to resign possibly as early as today, and definitely before the week is out. Johnanns was Nebraska’s governor before stepping down in January 2005 to become Bush’s Agriculture Secretary. (Related: Agriculture secretary to resign; Senate run expected)
Earlier this month, Nebraska Sen. Chuck Hagel announced he was retiring at the end of his term and would not run for re-election next year. Hagel is a Republican, as is Johanns.
Hagel told CNN Congressional Correspondent Dana Bash that he spoke with Johanns yesterday and encouraged him to run for his seat. Hagel also confirmed to CNN that Johanns would be making an announcement very soon.
Among the Democrats, former Nebraska Sen. Bob Kerrey has expressed an interest in possibly running for the open seat.
A Johanns–Kerrey matchup would instantly become a high profile Senate race. But Johanns may not have the Republican field to himself. Hagel’s very public criticism of the Bush Administration’s handling of the Iraq war had already prompted Nebraska Attorney General Jon Bruning to mount a primary challenge to the incumbent senator.
Now that Hagel’s not running for re-election, there are no guarantees Bruning will step aside for Johanns. Two other Republicans are also in the hunt for the open seat.
Nebraska’s generally considered to be a red state. President Bush handily won re-election there in 2004. But an unpopular war and an unpopular president could give the Democrats hope next year, even in the Cornhusker State. The state’s other incumbent senator, Ben Nelson, is a Democrat.
UPDATE: Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns will resign his post to seek an open seat in the U.S. Senate from his home state of Nebraska, sources told CNN Wednesday.
President Bush and Johanns, who served six years as Nebraska's governor before coming to Washington, will appear at the White House Thursday morning for an announcement, senior administration officials told CNN.
The White House would not confirm that his resignation would be announced. But a Republican source and a Bush administration official told CNN that Johanns had informed the White House that he plans to resign this week.
The Republican source said Johanns has also told friends he will run next year for the GOP nomination for the seat being vacated by fellow Republican Sen. Chuck Hagel, who announced earlier this month that he won't seek re-election to a third term.
– CNN'S Paul Steinhauser, John King, Suzanne Malveaux, and Dana Bash