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Trump pick Charles Herbster loses Nebraska GOP primary governor election

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Charles Herbster Nebraska gubernatorial candidate speaks in the course of the fourth day of the Conservative Political Motion Conference CPAC on Sunday, Feb. 27, 2022 in Orlando, FL.

Jabin Botsford | The Washington Post | Getty Images

Former President Donald Trump’s preferred candidate is projected to lose Nebraska’s GOP gubernatorial primary, signaling that Trump’s influence within the party has its limits — even in Republican stronghold states.

University of Nebraska Regent Jim Pillen, who was endorsed by current Gov. Pete Ricketts, prevailed within the tight primary race, NBC News projected Tuesday. Pillen is poised to advance to the final election on Nov. 8, where he is anticipated to defeat his Democratic rival, Carol Blood, within the reliably red state.

Nebraska has had a Republican within the governor’s mansion since 1999. Ricketts is term-limited from running again.

Pillen was one in every of three front-runners within the competitive primary fight, together with Charles Herbster, the Trump-backed business executive whose campaign was rocked after multiple women accused him of sexual misconduct.

University of Nebraska Regent Jim Pillen smiles to applause as he is known as the winner of the Nebraska Republican gubernatorial primary during an election night party on the Embassy Suites on Tuesday, May 10, 2022, in Lincoln, Neb.

Kenneth Ferriera | Lincoln Journal Star | AP

Herbster, a first-time gubernatorial candidate who poured tens of millions into his campaign, has denied the allegations made by eight women, including a Republican state senator.

The loss puts a blot on Trump’s so-far sterling endorsement record for the 2022 midterm elections, and will hint at the previous president’s enduring influence within the Republican Party.

Herbster’s defeat “would indicate that in Nebraska, there are limits to [Trump’s] endorsement,” said Gregory Petrow, a political science associate professor studying campaigns and elections on the University of Nebraska Omaha. He noted that the Cornhusker State has a practice of supporting more independent-minded leaders, reminiscent of GOP Sen. Ben Sasse.

Petrow acknowledged that Trump won the favored vote in Nebraska by wide margins in 2016 and 2020, but that “doesn’t necessarily imply that the state is totally won over by his approach.”

Even after losing the 2020 election to President Joe Biden, the previous president has remained the de facto leader of the GOP, holding sway over a significant chunk of the party’s base. He has strongly hinted that he may run for president again in 2024, though a growing list of Republicans even be mounting their very own White House bids.

Herbster had closely tied himself to Trump and his allies since receiving the previous president’s endorsement last fall. Herbster self-funded the majority of his campaign, contributing a complete of $11.3 million to his gubernatorial bid this 12 months, campaign finance filings show.

Nebraska’s GOP primary was an uncommonly competitive three-way fight between Herbster, Pillen and state Sen. Brett Lindstrom. Recent surveys showed all of the three front-runners polling inside the margin of error.

That remained the case even after the Nebraska Examiner printed allegations from eight women that the 67-year-old Herbster had groped or inappropriately touched them lately.

Most of those women spoke to the news outlet on condition of anonymity. But one in every of the accusers was Julie Slama, a Republican state senator who accused Herbster of reaching up her skirt without her consent in the course of a crowded ballroom during a Republican Party dinner in 2019.

Herbster denied all of the accusations, calling them “libelous” and “100% false.” He has filed a defamation suit against Slama, who’s countersuing and alleging sexual battery.

Trump campaigned with the embattled candidate at a rally in Greenwood, Nebraska, days after the Examiner’s report had thrust Herbster into the national highlight. Donald Trump Jr., the previous president’s oldest son, had also campaigned with Herbster at multiple stops in Nebraska within the run-up to the event.

“He’s been badly maligned, and it is a shame,” the senior Trump said of Herbster on the May 1 rally. The previous president claimed without providing evidence that Herbster is “innocent of those despicable charges.”

Trump himself has been accused of sexual misconduct by many ladies in incidents spanning a long time. He has denied the accusations against him.

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