Jim Pillen wins GOP primary for Nebraska governor

LINCOLN, Neb. (KLKN) — University of Nebraska Regent Jim Pillen won the Republican gubernatorial nomination on Tuesday.

The hog farmer had a strong showing in rural Nebraska, breaking 40% of the vote in many counties in a field of nine candidates.

The Associated Press called the race about 2½ hours after the polls closed.

“I’ve cried way too much, and I’m still the toughest son of a gun in here,” Pillen said during his victory speech.

One of his top priorities if elected in November will be investing in agriculture.

“I’m guilty. I love agriculture,” he said. “Germination, taking risks to get stuff to grow. I love to make bacon.”

He also wants to cut government spending and to ban abortion if Roe v. Wade is overturned.

Pillen didn’t participate in any debates, calling them “political theater,” but he had the support of some major players in Nebraska politics, from Gov. Pete Ricketts to legendary Husker coach and former Rep. Tom Osborn.

Charles Herbster conceded the race, finishing almost 10,000 votes behind Pillen despite an endorsement from former President Donald Trump, who held a rally for Herbster in Greenwood.

He said the race was “probably one of the nastiest governor campaigns in the state of Nebraska.” The last weeks of his campaign were marred by allegations of groping from eight women.

But Herbster said the Republican Party has to come together for the general election.

In that vein, he will appear with Pillen at the state GOP’s general election kickoff Wednesday morning.

His strongest support was in the Panhandle and north-central Nebraska, the most sparsely populated areas of Nebraska.

He earned well over 50% of votes in some of those counties. But because they are so small, it wasn’t enough to overcome Pillen, who also finished strong in key population centers like Lancaster, Hall and Buffalo Counties.

In third place was State Sen. Brett Lindstrom, who took an early lead after the polls closed then watched it disappear as more votes came in from rural Nebraska. He won Douglas County by about 14 percentage points.

Lindstrom pledged his support to Pillen and thanked his supporters.

“We knew it’d be tight, but we put in the work,” he said. We went to all 93 counties, we went to 153 different communities, towns, villages all across the state of Nebraska.”

Lindstrom, who is finishing his second term in the Legislature, didn’t have a firm answer about the future of his political career.

Nebraska governor, GOP primary

  • Jim Pillen WinnerR 33.9%
  • Charles W. Herbster  R 29.9%
  • Brett Lindstrom  R 26.1%
  • Theresa Thibodeau  R 6.1%
  • Breland Ridenour  R 1.7%
  • Michael Connely  R 1.0%
  • Donna Nicole Carpenter  R 0.6%
  • Lela McNinch  R 0.4%
  • Troy Wentz  R 0.3%
100.0% precincts reporting
Last updated:

On the other side of the aisle, State Sen. Carol Blood soundly defeated her sole rival to advance to the general election.

“We came out of the gate telling folks that we’re going to change Nebraska for the better because everybody deserves a seat at the table,” Blood said.

On Twitter, she urged Pillen to keep the general election campaign “about the real issues that affect Nebraskans.”

Nebraska governor, Democratic primary

  • Carol Blood WinnerD 88.7%
  • Roy A. Harris  D 11.3%
100.0% precincts reporting
Last updated:

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