Ricketts had 26.5 percent of the vote with more than 99 percent of precincts reporting. Bruning had 25.5 percent, despite the support of Governor Dave Heineman, who was at Bruning's campaign headquarters.
Bruning conceded at 11:20 p.m. in a public speech and told NTV that he will support Ricketts in his run for governor.
State Senator Beau McCoy finished third with 21 percent, followed by State Auditor Mike Foley with 19 percent. Bryan Slone and Tom Carlson also ran.
At times during the night, only a few hundred votes separated Ricketts and Bruning. It appeared the gap was closing, and Bruning believed the votes coming in from the Third District would carry him to victory. However, the gap then began to widen in favor of Ricketts, who credited his campaign team.
Ricketts has been active on the campaign trail, and locked up many key supporters early in the election cycle. Bruning joined the race near the filing deadline, while Ricketts had a head start. Ricketts also courted the farm vote, and held ag town hall events across rural Nebraska.
Ricketts thanked his opponents, calling them good men.
Ricketts will now face Democrat Chuck Hassebrook in November for the seat being vacated by Gov. Heineman. Hassebrook, a former University of Nebraska regent, headed the Center for Rural Affairs before resigning to run for governor.