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Omahan Theresa Thibodeau exploring run for Nebraska governor to give GOP options
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Omahan Theresa Thibodeau exploring run for Nebraska governor to give GOP options

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Three months after dropping out of the Republican race for lieutenant governor, Theresa Thibodeau of Omaha is looking to potentially mount her own bid for governor.

Thibodeau, a former state senator and former chair of the Douglas County Republican Party, said Thursday that she has been encouraged to consider running for the state's top office. She said people are looking for choices other than the announced GOP candidates.

"Right now I am only exploring it and I am talking to people," she said. "There's just not a lot of excitement about the race right now."

Falls City businessman Charles Herbster, University of Nebraska Regent Jim Pillen and state Sen. Brett Lindstrom of Omaha have announced their candidacy for the GOP nomination for governor. Former Gov. Dave Heineman is also seriously looking at a run, sources have said.

Gov. Pete Ricketts is prevented from seeking a third term in 2022 because of term limits.

Sen. Carol Blood of Bellevue is, thus far, the only Democrat to declare her candidacy for governor.

Thibodeau, 46, was Herbster's running mate until late July, when she announced that she was stepping aside because of unnamed “potential opportunities that would conflict with the campaign.”

“At this time, I do not feel I will be able to devote the needed time to the campaign,” she said in a press release. “In fairness to Charles and his wonderful team, I want to thank them for their support, and wish them the best for a successful election. I look forward to the continuation of conservative leadership in Nebraska.”

Her press release quoted Herbster as saying he respected her decision. “She is a great steward of conservative values, and I look forward to working with her in the future,” he said.

On Thursday, Thibodeau said she was not thinking about running when she left Herbster's campaign. She said she had a private matter that she needed to deal with at that time. She said the issue has since been resolved. She also has freed up time by selling her day care business, the Primrose School, in La Vista. She said the sale closed Oct. 1.

Thibodeau said she plans to announce her decision within the next three to five weeks. She said she does not believe it is too late to jump into the race, even if she would be taking on two candidates with deep pockets. 

"I think there is still time," she said.

Ellen Keast, a spokeswoman for the Herbster campaign, said the candidate had no comment on Thibodeau’s potential candidacy.

“We’re just going to keep going,” she said.

If she ran, she said she would emphasize education, tax reform, illegal immigration and the Department of Health and Human Services. She said she would bring the perspective of a woman, a mother and a small-business owner to the office. 

Nebraska's only female governor has been Gov. Kay Orr, who served from 1987 through 1991. She defeated another woman in the election, former Lincoln Mayor Helen Boosalis. 

Ricketts appointed Thibodeau to the Legislature in 2017 and backed her campaign to keep the seat in 2018. However, she was defeated by Sen. Machaela Cavanaugh, who holds the central Omaha seat.

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