Former Gov. Pete Ricketts of Nebraska, a Republican, was appointed on Thursday as the state’s next senator, replacing Ben Sasse, a fellow Republican who resigned this week to become president of the University of Florida.
Mr. Ricketts was chosen for the Senate seat by his successor in the governor’s office, Jim Pillen, whose campaign he helped bankroll last year.
A special election will be held in 2024 to fill the seat for the remainder of Mr. Sasse’s term, which would have ended in 2026. That means if Mr. Ricketts wants to stay in the Senate, he will have to run in the special election in 2024 and then again in 2026 for a full term.
Mr. Ricketts, 58, served two terms as governor from 2015 until this month. He was widely expected to seek the Senate seat after Mr. Sasse announced last year that he intended to step down, and he quickly received support from Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the Republican leader.
“We’ve got to hold Washington, D.C., accountable for the waste and the fraud and make sure that we’re running government more like a business, just like we’ve done here in Nebraska,” Mr. Ricketts said at a news conference after his appointment was announced.
The Ricketts family has long been among the most powerful in the insular world of Nebraska politics. Mr. Ricketts’s father, Joe Ricketts, the founder and former chief executive of the financial services company TD Ameritrade, is a major donor to Republican candidates and causes across the country.
Pete Ricketts spent at least $1.3 million in last year’s raucous Republican primary for governor, helping Mr. Pillen while attacking his two leading opponents. Mr. Pillen narrowly won the party’s nomination over a Trump-backed candidate and a relative moderate, and then cruised to victory in the general election.
On Thursday, Jane Kleeb, the chairwoman of the Nebraska Democratic Party, issued a statement accusing Mr. Pillen of using the open Senate seat to reward a supporter.
“Governor Pillen appointed Pete Ricketts in order to pay him back for buying the governor’s seat,” Ms. Kleeb said. “This is the most blatant pay-to-play scheme we’ve seen in our state, and it’s happening right in front of us all.”
A spokesman for Mr. Pillen did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Mr. Pillen solicited applications from Nebraskans interested in replacing Mr. Sasse and has said he considered many candidates.
“We took this process incredibly seriously,” he said, according to The Nebraska Examiner. “The criteria for me were really, really simple. The appointee needs to represent us as a people.”
But there was never much doubt that Mr. Ricketts would get the job if he wanted it.
At a Florida gathering of Republican governors in late November, Mr. Ricketts downplayed his interest in the Senate seat, saying, “We’ll see what happens.”
Three weeks later, he filed an application seeking the appointment.
Rachel Shorey contributed reporting.