Jim Pillen wins Republican primary for Nebraska governor

Jim Pillen defeated eight other candidates in the Republican Party primary for governor of Nebraska on May 10. Incumbent Gov. Pete Ricketts (R) was term-limited.

Along with Pillen, Charles Herbster and Brett Lindstrom led the primary field in endorsements, funding, and media attention. The Lincoln Journal Star’s Don Walton wrote on May 1 that the primary had “developed into a fluid and unpredictable [race],” which he said “[appeared] to be tightening with three candidates moving within grasp of victory.” With over 95% of precincts reporting, Pillen had received 34% of the vote to Herbster’s 30% and Lindstrom’s 26%.

Pillen, a University of Nebraska Regent, veterinarian, and the owner of Pillen Family Farms, said, “I will work to grow our economy and give every child the chance to pursue their dreams right here in Nebraska. We have to fix our broken property tax system and cut taxes. We need to modernize our tax structure, expand broadband access, and improve infrastructure across our state.” Ricketts endorsed Pillen in Jan. 2022, and the Nebraska Farm Bureau endorsed Pillen in February.

Herbster, who served as the chairman of former President Donald Trump’s (R) Agriculture and Rural Advisory Committee, described himself as a “political outsider, businessman, and fifth-generation farmer and rancher” and said it was “time for a Nebraska farmer and rancher to lead our great state toward successful solutions.” Herbster said, “America is in trouble, and if America is in trouble, Nebraska is in trouble. … Governors moving forward will have two jobs: to lead their state and to pushback against government overreach that’s coming out of Washington like a tsunami.” Trump endorsed Herbster in October 2021, and Lt. Gov. Mike Foley (R) endorsed Herbster in March 2022.

The Nebraska Examiner’s Aaron Sanderford reported on April 14 that eight women, including state Sen. Julie Slama (R), had accused Herbster of sexual misconduct occurring between 2017 and 2022. Herbster denied the allegations and said they were “part of a greater scheme calculated to try and defeat [his] candidacy.”

Trump spoke at a May 1 rally for Herbster and said he was “a fine man and … innocent of these despicable charges.”

Lindstrom, a member of the Nebraska State Senate, said he had “been at the forefront of tax reform, economic development and family issues” and had “passed legislation to make college more affordable for Nebraskans, defended the unborn, and led the fight against the opioid epidemic.”

According to Walton, Lindstrom “suggested he has the ability to connect with the next generation of leadership while also bringing valuable legislative experience to the governor’s office.” Omaha Mayor Jean Stothert and the Nebraska State Education Association endorsed Lindstrom in April 2022.

Donna Nicole Carpenter, Michael Connely, Lela McNinch, Breland Ridenour, Theresa Thibodeau, and Troy Wentz also ran in the primary.

Major independent observers rate the general election as Solid or Safe Republican. Republicans have held trifecta control of Nebraska state government since 1999.