updated 10/4/2007 9:20:31 AM ET 2007-10-04T13:20:31

Republican Mike Johanns said he will enter the Nebraska Senate race next week and will tour the state to announce his bid.

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"There's a lot of miles to travel out there, and I'm going to travel them," Johanns told The Associated Press in an interview Wednesday.

Johanns, 57, resigned as U.S. agriculture secretary last month and was widely expected to launch a bid for the Senate seat being vacated by Republican Chuck Hagel at the end of next year.

A former Nebraska governor, Johanns faces Jon Bruning, the Nebraska attorney general, and businessman Pat Flynn in the GOP primary in May. Last week, former congressman and Omaha Mayor Hal Daub dropped out after 11 days in the race, citing the formidable challenge presented by Johanns.

The party's national senatorial committee has indicated Johanns is its choice, especially if Democrat Bob Kerrey joins the fray.

Kerrey, a former Nebraska senator and governor, has said he'll soon decide whether to leave his college post in New York and return to Nebraska politics.

On Sept. 20, President Bush announced Johanns' resignation as head of the Agriculture Secretary, and immediately offered support for his expected run for the Senate.

"If it's Mike's decision and Nebraska's choice, he would make an outstanding member of the United States Senate," Bush said last month.

Johanns was mayor of Lincoln from 1991 to 1998, when he was elected governor. He won re-election to a second term in 2002 and became agriculture secretary in 2005.

Copyright 2007 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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