Pillen Wins Republican Gubernatorial Primary Race

May 10, 2022, 11 p.m. ·

Pillen Victory Speech
Jim Pillen addresses his supporters Tuesday night in Lincoln after winning the Republican primary race for Governor (Photo by Will Bauer, Nebraska Public Media News)

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Jim Pillen will be the Republican Party’s nominee for governor in November, according to a call from the Associated Press.

Riding the endorsement of Gov. Pete Ricketts and much of the state’s GOP establishment, Pillen, a Columbus-area hog producer and University of Nebraska regent, held off rival candidate Charles Herbster and State Sen. Brett Lindstrom.

"We are incredibly, incredibly humbled and honored to serve as your nominee for the Republican nomination to be the next Governor of Nebraska," Pillen told a crowd of a few hundred at Embassy Suites in downtown Lincoln.

Shortly before midnight on Tuesday night, Pillen had 33% of the vote and totaled some 85,000 votes across Nebraska's 93 counties. Herbster had 30%, and Lindstrom had 26%, according to the AP.

This victory is a win for the state’s establishment Republicans, many of whom backed Pillen throughout the race. The victory is also a blow to former president Trump’s influence over political races across the country, as the former President spent a lot of time and effort pushing Herbster’s candidacy.

Pillen, known by some for introducing a resolution to oppose imposing critical race theory in University of Nebraska classrooms and for refusing televised debates in the primary race, said late Tuesday night, if elected governor, his administration would stop the out migration – or younger generations from leaving the state.

"We live in the greatest place on the planet right here in Nebraska." he told the crowd.

Pillen also spoke about number of talking points he campaigned on over the last 13 months, including support for agriculture, less government and a strong opposition to abortion.

Herbster conceded the race Tuesday night. In his speech, Herbster told supporters he may have lost the battle, but he doesn’t want to lose the war.

Charles Herbster, in suit and cowboy hat, addresses supporters during his concession speech
Charles Herbster tallied 78,104 votes, or 30.4%, in Tuesday night's primary election. (Photo by Fred Knapp, Nebraska Public Media News)

"This is probably one of the nastiest governor campaigns in the state of Nebraska," Herbster said.

The agri-businessman from Falls City has been the center of attention because of his ties to the 45th president and recently because of allegations he groped eight women. The story, originally published by the Nebraska Examiner in April, details allegations that Herbster groped and forcibly kissed eight women – including State Sen. Julie Slama.

"This is what I said all along and that it’s in God’s hands," Herbster told his supporters.

In Omaha, Lindstrom also conceded. He told the crowd he called Pillen and endorsed him for the general election.

Brett Lindstrom addresses his supporters during his concession speech
State Sen. Brett Lindstrom tallied 66,880 votes, or 26.1%, in Tuesday night's primary election. (Photo by William Padmore, Nebraska Public Media News)

"We went to all 93 counties," Lindstrom said. "We went to 150 different communities, towns, villages all across the state of Nebraska – met a lot of great people. I mean, the people in Nebraska are fantastic. And who knows what the future holds, right?"

Pillen will face Democrat Carol Blood in the November general elections. Blood, a State Sen. from Bellevue, cruised to victory Tuesday night, earning 89% of her party’s primary votes. Her challenger, Roy Harris of Linwood, had made very few public campaign stops.

The last time a Democrat won a statewide office was 2006 when Nebraska voters re-elected Ben Nelson to the U.S. Senate. Nelson was also the last Democratic governor in the state, serving from 1991 to 1999.

Editor's note: Nebraska Public Media's Fred Knapp and William Padmore contributed to this report.