Herbster touts leadership, Lindstrom cites tax-cutting record in Pillen-less GOP debate

The absence of Jim Pillen gave other GOP candidates a chance to make their case to voters in 2022's first Republican gubernatorial debate.

LINCOLN, Neb. (KLKN) – The absence of Jim Pillen gave other GOP candidates a chance to make their case to voters in 2022’s first Republican gubernatorial debate.

Nebraska Public Media hosted the hourlong debate, with three Nebraska journalists taking turns asking the four candidates in attendance — Charles Herbster, Brett Lindstrom, Theresa Thibodeau and Breland Ridenour — questions about taxes, agriculture, COVID-19, and other issues facing the state.

Herbster, a farmer and businessman from Falls City who has clashed with Pillen in advertisements, used the increased spotlight to frame himself as the leader Nebraskans need.

“People want to be heard; they want a leader who will listen to them,” he said. “Everything rises and falls on leadership. Great leadership. Great results.”

State Sen. Brett Lindstrom of Omaha, who works as a financial advisor, is considered a dark horse candidate in this race.

As Pillen and Herbster have traded attacks, Lindstrom has adopted a more positive, promotional approach to this race.

On Thursday, he made his case for governor by citing his record of cutting taxes and expressing his belief in investing in Nebraska’s youth. He believes that the two go hand in hand.

“I’m a tax cutter. I’ve slashed taxes over my years. I’m currently slashing taxes and will continue to do so as governor,” Lindstrom said. “We need to recruit, retain talent. We need to be competitive.”

Thibodeau, a former state senator and business owner, referenced her wide range of experience as a reason why she would be a good fit to bring people together as governor.

“I’ve served city government, I’ve sat on boards and commissions to appoint people to state government and judges,” Thibodeau said. “I have the well-rounded experience to stand up and serve this state.”

Ridenour, an information technology manager and a self-described constitutionalist, mentioned fighting abortion and adopting a new tax system as some of his priorities if elected.

“So many of these cans have been kicked down the road, and we need strong leadership today,” Ridenour said.

Notable was the absence of Pillen, a leading fundraiser during the campaign. Pillen announced that he would hosting a town hall event instead of appearing at the debate.

Thibodeau took note, using Pillen’s absence to take swings at the largest fundraisers in the race.

“Here we have a room full of people. One decided not to show up and is campaigning from Facebook and spreading lies about candidates,” she said of Pillen.

“There is another that talks about reducing taxes and bringing business here yet won’t bring their corporate headquarters here,” Thibodeau said of Herbster.

On Lindstrom, Thibodeau said, “We then have another who has done some great tax relief this session but not too long ago passed the biggest gas tax increase.”

Subjects addressed in questions asked to candidates include:

  • Prison overcrowding
  • Greatest threat to agriculture
  • Property tax reform
  • The importance of being “Nebraska Nice”
  • Representing marginalized communities
  • Nebraska’s canal and lake proposals
  • Gov. Pete Ricketts’ handling of COVID-19

On taxes, Herbster said, “We have to rebuild the entire tax code.”

Ridenour discussed leveraging technology to allow for proper reporting in an effort to cut spending.

“We need to know where the money is going and what we can cut,” he said.

Candidates credited Ricketts for his handling of the pandemic with the information he had at his disposal, but some said more could have been done to combat mandates.

“Pandemics happen,” Ridenour said. “We need to be proactive and make sure that we already know what we’re going to do for the next on, because COVID will not be the last.”

Herbster said, “As governor, my playbook would be the playbook of my good friend Gov. Ron DeSantis in Florida. When it comes to mandates: zero mandates.”

Lindstrom said he would “stand up against any type of mandate, both federal and state, and make sure that we are always siding on individual rights and freedoms for all Nebraskans.”

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