President Bush Thursday said Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns will step down as Johanns considers a bid for a U.S. Senate seat from Nebraska.
Johanns is the latest in a string of senior administration officials to leave in recent months, following Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and close Bush confidant and political strategist Karl Rove.
Bush said it was up to Johanns whether he would seek another political office, but added that he thought Johanns would "make an outstanding member of the United States Senate."
Bush said Deputy Agriculture Secretary Charles Conner would serve as acting secretary. Three other Republicans already are in the race for the nomination to succeed Republican Sen. Chuck Hagel, who is retiring. They include state Attorney General Jon Bruning, former Omaha mayor Hal Daub and a financial adviser, Pat Flynn.
Among the state's Democrats, former Sen. Bob Kerrey is also said to be considering a run. Backers say Johanns, as a popular former governor of Nebraska, would be a formidable candidate.