Former President Donald Trump wasn’t on the ballot in Nebraska’s crowded and combative Republican gubernatorial primary.
But the former president suffered a defeat, as Charles Herbster – the candidate he had endorsed and traveled to Nebraska to hold a rally on behalf of – came up short.
The Associated Press has projected that multimillionaire hog farmer and University of Nebraska Regent Jim Pillen, has won GOP nomination. Pillen enjoyed the backing of term-limited Republican Gov. Pete Ricketts, whom he hopes to succeed in November’s general election.
According to the latest vote count, Herbster, a multimillionaire agricultural executive and state Sen. Brett Lindstrom, who enjoyed the support of moderate Republicans and cross-over Democrats, were battling for second place.
It is the first time a candidate endorsed by the former president in the 2022 Republican Party primaries has lost.
Earlier Tuesday evening, Trump scored a victory when the AP projected Rep. Alex Mooney the winner over Rep. David McKinley in the GOP primary in West Virginia’s 2nd Congressional District.
West Virginia lost a congressional seat during the once-in-a-decade congressional reapportionment, and Mooney and McKinley were drawn into the state’s newly refigured 2nd District. Trump had backed Mooney, while McKinley enjoyed the support of two-term GOP Gov. Jim Justice and of longtime Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin, who crossed party lines to star in a McKinley ad.
At his victory celebration, Mooney thanked Trump for “his endorsement and support of my campaign – when Donald Trump puts his mind to something, you better watch out.”
It was the second major victory for a Trump-backed candidate in a high profile and heavily contested GOP primary, following JD Vance’s win last Tuesday in a crowded, combustible, and very expensive Republican primary in the race for Ohio’s open Senate seat.
But it was a very different outcome in Nebraska, where Herbster – a longtime top Trump donor and ally – in recent weeks has faced accusations that he sexually assaulted eight women – including a state senator.
The former president endorsed Herbster last autumn and held a rally with the candidate in Nebraska nine days ago.
Trump described Herbster “a good man” at the May 1 rally. Pointing to the allegations of sexual misconduct that the candidate repeatedly denied, the former president argued that Herbster had been “maligned.”
And Trump called Herbster “a die-hard MAGA champion” during a tele-rally last Thursday, and the former president charged that Pillen and Lindstrom were “Republicans in name only.”
Ricketts, the co-chair of the Republican Governors Association, last year tried to dissuade Trump from backing Herbster, and in the ensuing months criticized Herbster as unfit to hold office. And Ricketts, whose wealthy family owns Major League Baseball’s Chicago Cubs, along with his father – billionaire TD Ameritrade founder Joe Ricketts –contributed big bucks to an outside group that targeted Herbster in TV ads.
The group, called Conservative Nebraska, has concentrated its firepower on Lindstrom the past couple of weeks.
The winner of the GOP primary will be considered the clear favorite in red Nebraska in November’s general election against state Sen. Carol Blood, who is all but certain to win the Democratic nomination for governor over a little-known candidate.