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The power of Trump's endorsement takes a blow in Nebraska's GOP primary for governor

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

Updated May 10, 2022 at 11:33 PM ET

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

Riding the endorsement of Gov. Pete Ricketts and much of the state's GOP establishment, Pillen, a hog producer and University of Nebraska regent, held off rival candidates that included Charles Herbster — a political newcomer backed by former President Donald Trump — and state Sen. Brett Lindstrom.

Pillen's win is a loss for Trump and the power of his endorsement, which has seemed to push other Republicans in prominent primaries to victory this year, including in West Virginia Tuesday and in 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. The stump speeches and spending weren't enough to beat Pillen in the end, who raised $8.4 million.

Herbster could have suffered among voters after the Nebraska Examiner published a story detailing allegations from eight women that he groped or forcibly kissed them. Herbster later filed a defamation lawsuit against state Sen. Julie Slama, one of the accusers. Slama has filed a countersuit.

Pillen, meanwhile, campaigned on his opposition to abortion rights and critical race theory. He also says he supports restricted government and making Nebraska more friendly to agricultural business.

Campaign posters supporting Nebraska Republican candidate for governor Charles Herbster decorate the grounds of the I-80 Speedway prior to the start of a rally with former President Donald Trump on May 1 in Greenwood, Neb.
Scott Olson / Getty Images
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Getty Images
Campaign posters supporting Nebraska Republican candidate for governor Charles Herbster decorate the grounds of the I-80 Speedway prior to the start of a rally with former President Donald Trump on May 1 in Greenwood, Neb.

He says that one of his top priorities will be keeping youth from leaving the state for opportunities elsewhere. "Guess where the grass is the greenest and the tallest," Pillen said at a rally on Monday, "right here in Nebraska."

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

The Republican will face Democrat Carol Blood in the November general elections. Blood, a Nebraska state senator, cruised to victory Tuesday night. Her challenger Roy Harris made very few public campaign appearances.

Pillen is widely expected to take office in November. The last time a Democrat won a statewide office was 2006 when Nebraska voters reelected Ben Nelson to the U.S. Senate. Nelson was also the last Democratic governor in the state, serving from 1991 to 1999.

Copyright 2022 Nebraska Public Media

Will Bauer

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