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Jim Pillen Wins Nebraska’s G.O.P. Primary for Governor Over Trump-Endorsed Rival


Jim Pillen, a University of Nebraska regent backed by the state’s powerful Ricketts political machine, has won the Republican primary for Nebraska governor, defeating a scandal-marred millionaire who had the backing of former President Donald J. Trump.

The Associated Press declared Mr. Pillen the winner over his fundamental rivals, Charles W. Herbster, a Trump-endorsed agribusiness executive who funded his own campaign and, within the race’s final weeks, was accused of groping women, and Brett Lindstrom, a state senator who appealed to the moderate wing of the party.

Mr. Pillen’s victory makes him an awesome favorite to grow to be Nebraska’s next governor in November. Democrats haven’t won a statewide election since 2006. The party nominated Carol Blood, a state senator from the Omaha suburbs.

Mr. Herbster is the primary candidate endorsed by Mr. Trump to lose a Republican primary in 2022. Many more Trump-endorsed candidates are facing stiff headwinds in coming primaries, starting with contests for governor in Idaho next week and in Georgia on May 24.

Mr. Pillen, in his victory remarks in Lincoln, pledged to run an administration focused on education and agriculture, two pillars of the state. He said he would promote Nebraska to each attract latest residents and keep young people from leaving for other states.

“All of us agree, we’re all in unison, we never ever, ever, quit on kids,” he said. “We’re going to speculate the farm in our youngsters, so all of our youngsters know, the grass is greenest in Nebraska.”

Mr. Pillen, 66, ran a campaign predicated on the concept that Nebraska Republicans were satisfied with the administration of Gov. Pete Ricketts, his fundamental political benefactor and most distinguished supporter, who’s stepping down due to term limits. Mr. Ricketts spent hundreds of thousands on television promoting backing Mr. Pillen while attacking Mr. Herbster and Mr. Lindstrom.

Once Mr. Herbster began to realize traction within the race, the mild-mannered Mr. Pillen adopted a few of his rival’s right-wing positions on social issues. He sought to bar the teaching of critical race theory within the University of Nebraska system and got here out against allowing transgender athletes from competing in highschool girls’ sports within the state.

Mr. Pillen, a former defensive back for the University of Nebraska’s football team, became a highly successful veterinarian and pig farmer within the state. Along with Mr. Ricketts’s backing, he had endorsements from a handful of the state’s most distinguished figures, including Tom Osborne, his college football coach, who was also a three-term member of Congress from western Nebraska, and the comedian Larry the Cable Guy, who was raised on a farm within the state’s southeastern corner.

Much to the frustration of his opponents, Mr. Pillen skipped all the televised debates throughout the primary campaign, opting as an alternative to carry a whole lot of small meetings with voters across the state. Mr. Pillen’s opponents argued that he lacked charisma and was not prepared to debate the state’s issues; Mr. Pillen said he was constructing coalitions away from the prying eyes of the news media.

Mr. Lindstrom sought to rebuild the variety of Republican coalitions that existed before Mr. Trump’s rise. He appealed to educated professionals within the state’s urban centers of Omaha and Lincoln and put political distance between himself and Mr. Trump — saying that the 2020 election was legitimate and that he would like “a latest face” to guide the Republican Party in 2024.

While Mr. Lindstrom made a late charge within the polls, many of the race became a proxy fight between Mr. Ricketts and Mr. Trump, to whom Mr. Herbster yoked his political identity. He talked like Mr. Trump, adopted lots of Mr. Trump’s policy positions and pledged to empty “the swamp” in Lincoln, the state capital.

In other Nebraska races, Mike Flood, a state senator from Norfolk who owns radio and tv stations across the state, won the Republican nomination to the Lincoln-based congressional seat vacated by former Representative Jeff Fortenberry, who resigned after he was convicted of lying to the F.B.I. in a campaign finance investigation.

Mr. Flood defeated Mr. Fortenberry, who remained on the ballot but didn’t mount a campaign, and Curtis Huffman, an accountant.

Democrats in Omaha nominated Tony Vargas, a state senator, to face Representative Don Bacon, a moderate Republican who’s looking for his fourth term. Mr. Vargas, the son of immigrants from Peru, is a former public-school teacher in Omaha who served on town’s school board before he was elected to the Nebraska Legislature.

The House Democrats’ campaign arm is optimistic Mr. Vargas will be competitive in November, despite the difficult national environment for the party.

Mr. Bacon is one among 10 House Republicans who hold a district carried by President Biden in 2020. But within the last two elections, Omaha Democrats nominated Kara Eastman, a democratic socialist who didn’t appeal to centrist voters within the district. Mr. Vargas has not campaigned on the left-wing issues Ms. Eastman promoted.

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