Nebraska Politicians Call on Charles Herbster to Step Out of Governor's Race

April 14, 2022, 12:45 p.m. ·

Charles Herbster speaks at Nebraska Public Media debate in March 2022
Charles Herbster answers a question during a Nebraska Public Media debate on March 24, 2022. (Photo by Chris Holtmeier for Nebraska Public Media)

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A number of Nebraska politicians are calling on Charles Herbster to step down from the governor's race following a report that eight women, including a state senator, say they were groped by Herbster.

The women said Herbster, a Republican candidate for Governor, groped them or touched them inappropriately, according to a Nebraska Examiner report.

But Herbster said in a statement Thursday afternoon "these libelous accusations are 100% false."

One of the eight women, Sen. Julie Slama of Sterling, confirmed the report, which said that Herbster reached up her skirt at a 2019 event. All the women’s stories were corroborated by separate witnesses.

"This isn't bad journalism - it's libelous fake news," Herbster said in a news release Thursday afternoon.

He said Slama's accusation manifests from her ties to Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts, who's been one of Herbster's most out-spoken critics. Ricketts appointed both Slama and her husband, former state Sen. Andrew La Grone, to the legislature.

Herbster said he was personally invited to Slama and La Grone's wedding in 2021.

Slama publicly mentioned the alleged groping in February – but did not name Herbster. On the floor of the Legislature, she said she'd been "groped at a political event by someone who was not a member of this body."

In a statement, Slama confirmed she'd indirectly referenced the incident. Herbster and his campaign deny the allegation.

A bipartisan group of female state senators said Thursday morning that Herbster should step down. They drafted a letter Thursday in support of Sen. Slama and others who’ve shared allegations against Herbster.

“Herbster’s actions as outlined by the Nebraska Examiner render him unfit to serve," the five Republicans and eight Democrats wrote.

Herbster's rival GOP challenger, Jim Pillen, agreed with the state senators.

"Sexually assaulting women should be disqualifying for anyone seeking to serve as a leader," Pillen said in a statement.

In an interview with Nebraska Public Media News, Pillen said he would pray for the women who raised the allegations.

"They are horrific and incredibly discouraging," he said. "You just can't put it into words."

Theresa Thibodeau, a former running mate of Herbster’s, and now a challenger for the GOP nomination, told the Examiner she had not been aware of the allegations but she’s disgusted to hear about them.

State Sen. Brett Lindstrom, another Republican candidate for governor, said in a statement he was disgusted to read the stories about his colleague, Sen. Slama, and the other women.

“We need to listen to and stand with the victims," he said.