Trump’s power of approval takes a hit in Nebraska GOP primary for governor


Jim Pillen, center, speaks about his campaign after receiving the endorsement from Gov. Pete Ricketts, right, Tuesday, Jan. 18, 2022, at the State Capitol in Lincoln, Neb. According to the AP, Pillen won the May 10 Republican primary.

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Jim Pillen, center, speaks about his campaign after receiving the endorsement from Gov. Pete Ricketts, right, Tuesday, Jan. 18, 2022, at the State Capitol in Lincoln, Neb. According to the AP, Pillen won the May 10 Republican primary.

Grant Schulte/AP

In Nebraska, Jim Pillen won the Republican primary for governor, according to a race call from The Associated Press.

With the endorsement of Gov. Pete Ricketts and much of the state’s GOP establishment, Pillen, a pork producer and University of Nebraska regent, fended off rival candidates who included Charles Herbster — a political newcomer backed by former President Donald Trump — and the state senator. Brett Lindstrom.

Pillen’s victory is a loss for Trump and the power of his endorsement, which has appeared to propel other Republicans in leading primaries to victory this year, including in West Virginia on Tuesday and Ohio last week. .

Trump and his son, Donald Trump Jr., came to Nebraska to campaign for Herbster, a wealthy businessman who donated $11.5 million of his own money to his campaign. Stump talk and spending weren’t enough to beat Pillen in the end, which raised $8.4 million.

Herbster could have suffered among the voters after the Nebraska Examiner published a story detailing claims by eight women that he groped or forcibly kissed them. Herbster then filed a libel suit against State Senator Julie Slama, one of the accusers. Slama filed a countersuit.

Pillen, meanwhile, campaigned on his opposition to abortion rights and critical race theory. He also says he supports a small government and makes Nebraska friendlier to agricultural businesses.

Campaign posters supporting Nebraska’s Republican gubernatorial candidate Charles Herbster decorate the grounds at I-80 Speedway before the start of a rally with former President Donald Trump May 1 in Greenwood, Neb.

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Campaign posters supporting Nebraska’s Republican gubernatorial candidate Charles Herbster decorate the grounds at I-80 Speedway before the start of a rally with former President Donald Trump May 1 in Greenwood, Neb.

Scott Olson/Getty Images

He says one of his top priorities will be to prevent young people from leaving the state for opportunities elsewhere. “Guess where the grass is greenest and tallest,” Pillen said at a Monday rally, “right here in Nebraska.”

Like Herbster and other candidates in the race, Pillen says as governor he would push back against Washington DC policies and fight all COVID-19 mandates.

The Republican will face Democrat Carol Blood in the November general election. Blood, a Nebraska state senator, claimed victory on Tuesday night. His challenger Roy Harris has made very few public appearances in the campaign.

Pillen is expected to take office in November. The last time a Democrat won a statewide office was in 2006, when Nebraska voters re-elected Ben Nelson to the US Senate. Nelson was also the state’s last Democratic governor, serving from 1991 to 1999.


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