Omaha, Neb. ( Associated Press) — Hog Farm owner and veterinarian Jim Pillen won a candidate backed by Donald Trump in Nebraska’s crowded Republican primary for governor on Tuesday, giving the former president his first run in a midterm election season. was facing defeat.
Pillen defeated eight challengers, including Charles Herbster, a Trump-backed businessman accused of late in the campaign of groping young women, and Brett Lindstrom, a state senator and Omaha financial adviser who was generally considered more liberal. was seen as an option.
The results were a blow to Trump after a decisive victory for his candidate J.D. Vance in last week’s Ohio Republican Senate primary. The former president has issued hundreds of ads running across the country, in an effort to reshape the GOP and lift his loyalists into office. Herbster’s defeat raised bets this month on other high-profile races in Pennsylvania and Georgia, where Trump has also interfered with campaigns.
Pilane will be a strong favorite in November’s general election in the Republican-majority state against her Democratic rival, State Sen. Carol Blood. Nebraska has not elected a Democrat as governor since 1994.
Pillen was endorsed by many of the state’s top GOP leaders, including Governor Pete Ricketts, former Gov. Orr, and noted former University of Nebraska football coach and Congressman Tom Osborne. Ricketts, the incumbent, was prevented from running again by term limit laws.
In Nebraska, allegations against Herbster, a longtime supporter of Trump, didn’t stop the former president from rallying with him earlier this month.
“I really think he’s going to do just a fantastic job, and if I didn’t feel like it, I wouldn’t be here,” Trump said at a rally at a racetrack outside Omaha.
In a story last month, the Nebraska Examiner interviewed six women who claimed Herbster groped their buttocks, outside of their clothes, during political events or beauty pageants. A seventh woman said that Herbster once surrounded her in private and kissed her forcibly.
One of the accusers, Republican State Sen. Julie Slama, said Herbster raised her skirt and touched her inappropriately at the Douglas County Republican Party’s annual Elephant Remembers Dinner in 2019. The Associated Press generally does not identify people who say they are sexual victims. Unless they choose to come out in public, as Slama has done.
Herbster filed a defamation suit against Slama, saying he falsely accused her of attempting to derail his campaign. Slama responded with a counter suit against Herbster, alleging sexual battery.
Herbster has suggested in television commercials that Pilen and Ricketts conspired to falsely accuse Slama of sexual assault – all three denied.
Some voters said the allegations didn’t stop them from supporting Herbster.
Voting Tuesday at an elementary school in northwest Omaha, Joan Cotten said she is “disturbed by the stories, but I don’t know if I believe them.” Ultimately, the 74-year-old said he voted for Herbster “because President Trump recommended him.”
Lindstrom has also faced attacks, with third-party television commercials funded by Ricketts portraying him as too liberal for a conservative state. In a digitally altered ad, Lindstrom stands in front of a rainbow flag with a coronavirus mask on its face. A Mail ad said Lindstrom was endorsed by US Representative Brad Ashford, a moderate Republican-turned-Democrat who died of brain cancer last month.
But Devon Leslie said he supported Lindstrom, 41, because “it is time to hand politics over to the next generation.” Both Pilane and Herbster are in their 60s.
Leslie, 45, who lives in Omaha, said she didn’t pay much attention to the various ads in the race.
“I would not trust any politician to talk about any other politician. It’s all dirt,” he said. “If we listened to his opponent, we would never vote for anyone.”
Carol Bruning, 59, of Omaha, said she went to Pilen and Lindstrom to argue on Election Day, but went with Pilen because of her age and experience. She said she liked that Ricketts and former football coach and Congressman Tom Osborne backed Pilane. The fact that Trump supported Herbster may have been a bit of a twist at this point, even though Bruning said he did vote for Trump.
The allegations against Herbster didn’t appear to be much of a factor.
“You don’t know what to believe. That’s the hard part,” Bruning said.
Nebraska Secretary of State Bob Evenen, a Republican, predicted that 35% of registered voters would cast ballots in the primary, the highest percentage he has seen since 2006.
Nebraska Republicans and Democrats chose their candidates for the seat previously held by Republican US Rep. Jeff Fortenberry, who resigned in March after pleading guilty to federal corruption charges and ending his re-election bid.
State Sen. Mike Flood, a former Speaker of the Nebraska Legislature, won the Republican nomination, while State Sen. Patty Pansing Brooks won the Democratic nomination. Flood would enter the race as a strong favorite in the Republican-heavy 1st congressional district, which includes Lincoln, the small town and a large swath of eastern Nebraska ranch.
Despite Trump’s defeat in the Nebraska gubernatorial race, his influence proved decisive in West Virginia, which also held the primary elections on Tuesday. In a race pitting two Republican office-bearers against each other, Trump’s nominee, Rep. Alex Mooney, defeated Rep. David McKinley, who won President Joe Biden’s bipartisan infrastructure package and a House committee investigating Jan. Trump was angered by voting for the construction. Attack on the Capitol.