US Agriculture Secretary Johanns resigns

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WASHINGTON, Sep 20 (Reuters) US Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns resigned today after nearly three years in office, clearing the way to run for the US Senate in Nebraska, where he was a popular two-term governor.

President George W Bush announced the decision of Johanns, who became the latest in a series of senior officials to depart the administration including Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and Bush's longtime political adviser Karl Rove.

''I am writing to inform you that I have decided to pursue a new opportunity to serve this great nation,'' Johanns said in a letter to Bush.

Johanns was expected to announce his candidacy as early as Monday for the seat being vacated by two-term Sen Chuck Hagel, a Republican. Analysts say he could be the front-runner among Republican candidates.

Also running are state Attorney General Jon Bruning, former Omaha mayor Hal Daub and a financial advisor, Pat Flynn.

Democrats have talked of recruiting Bob Kerrey, a former senator and Nebraska governor who is now a university president in New York City.

REUTERS SKB RK1951

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