In Nebraska, a Trump-inspired candidate is splitting open division in the GOP

WAHOO, Neb. – In his run for governor of Nebraska, Charles W. Herbster does his best imitation of former President Donald J. Trump. Hi...


WAHOO, Neb. – In his run for governor of Nebraska, Charles W. Herbster does his best imitation of former President Donald J. Trump.

His 90-minute speech is filled with complaints about illegal immigrants, stories touting his business triumphs, a conspiracy theory linking China, the coronavirus pandemic and the 2020 election, and denials of recent accusations that he allegedly groped women at political events.

He even swears to clean up the “swamp” – but he’s talking about Lincoln, the state capital.

As his political role model – and main financial backer – Mr. Herbster is proving to be a political wrecking ball all on his own. In a state long known for distinct, collaborative politics and, over the past 24 years, one-party rule, Mr. Herbster’s candidacy has split his party into three camps, with Trump supporters, establishment conservatives and pro-business moderates battling for power. A major donor for years to Conservative candidates, Mr Herbster was let down by longtime political allies and saw his running mate quit his ticket to run for governor herself. the groping allegations Arrive of his Republican colleagues.

Behind all the drama is a question that resonates far beyond Nebraska. Mr. Trump’s endorsement of Mr. Herbster, a major contributor to Mr. Trump’s political career, is not just the candidate’s main first-time credential – it’s the whole rationale for his campaign. Mr. Trump’s name appears on Mr. Herbster’s lawn signs, advertisements and billboards. Mr. Herbster spent Friday in western Nebraska with Stephen Moore, Trump’s former economic adviser who is a minor Trumpworld celebrity.

Mr. Herbster is about to find out if an endorsement from Trump alone is enough to win a major Republican primary.

This is a proxy war between the entire American Republican establishment against President Donald J. Trump,” said Herbster, who campaigns in a white cowboy hat and black vest. bearing the logo of his bovine semen company, in an interview on Thursday. “Anyone the establishment can’t control, they’re afraid of it.”

Mr. Herbster, a longtime Trump ally who was with members of the Trump family in the Jan. 6, 2021 Capitol attack, runs against Jim Pillen, a University of Nebraska regent who is backed by the state’s powerful Ricketts family political machine, and Brett Lindstrom, a junior senator of the state which consolidated the support of the moderates and remaining democrats of the party. Over 8,000 Democrats and independents have changed their registration in recent weeks to have some influence over a gubernatorial contest in a majority Republican state. Polls in the last few days before Tuesday’s vote show the race is a three-way stalemate.

If the recent Ohio Senate primary is any guide, the three-way race plays in Mr. Herbster’s favor. The Trump-backed Senate candidate, JD Vance, won in a crowded field, receiving less than a third of the votes. (There is precedent for this in Nebraska. Eight years ago, Governor Pete Ricketts won the nomination with just over a quarter of the votes.)

But Mr. Trump’s touch looks less golden in other states, particularly in two-way contests for governor. In Georgia, former Senator David Perdue, Mr. Trump’s choice, is far behind Governor Brian Kemp in the polls, leading Mr. Trump distance yourself from this campaign. In Idaho, the former president backed Lt. Gov. Janice McGeachin’s challenge to Gov. Brad Little. Ms McGeachin has struggled to gain traction and Mr Trump has not mentioned her since her endorsement in November.

Mr. Trump has thrown his full weight behind Mr. Herbster. On Sunday, he traveled to Nebraska for a rally and appeared on a conference call for Herbster supporters on Thursday night, where he called Mr Herbster’s rivals “Republicans in name only”.

“Charles was a stalwart MAGA champion,” Mr. Trump said on the call. “When you vote for Charles in the primary, you can give a scathing rebuke to the RINOs and sellouts and losers who represent your state so poorly.

Like Mr. Trump in the 2016 Republican presidential primary, Mr. Herbster is accused of abusing women and trying to use that fact to gain support. Two women, including a state senator, publicly accused him of groping them at a political event in 2019. Mr. Herbster has denied the allegations and broadcast a television commercial slamming his accuser.

“Any allegation sent to me is 100% completely false,” he said in an interview.

He has repeatedly blamed the charges on Mr Ricketts, a two-term Tory incumbent who cannot run again because of term limits. The Ricketts family had a falling out with Mr. Trump. This spent millions in a last-ditch effort to block Mr. Trump winning the Republican presidential nomination in 2016; Trump said then that family is better “be careful.”

Mr. Ricketts, who tried to talk Mr. Trump out of endorsing Mr. Herbster last year, is outspoken about his opposition to Mr. Herbster’s offer. He considers the trial and error allegations disqualifying. If Mr. Herbster wins the Republican nomination, Mr. Ricketts will not endorse it unless he “apologizes to the women he did this to,” he said in an interview.

Mr Herbster was the subject of criticism long before the allegations. Some Republicans bristled at his focus on the kind of divisive cultural issues that don’t typically dominate political conservation in the state. He campaigns to eliminate sex education in Nebraska public schools, crack down on illegal immigration and limit China’s influence.

In July, his running mate, former state senator Theresa Thibodeau, dropped the ticket and then entered the race herself. She said Mr. Herbster had little interest in anything other than trying to emulate Mr. Trump.

“If you want to lead the state, you have to learn more about the policies that affect our state,” she said Thursday. “He had no initiative or will to do it.”

But Mr. Herbster’s message resonated with Trump’s conservatives, and soon one of his rivals followed suit. Mr. Pillen, a 66-year-old former defensive back for the University of Nebraska football team with a grandfather attitude, promised to ban critical race theory from the University of Nebraska and bar transgender women participate in women’s sports or use the women’s washroom.

“The Pillen and Herbster campaigns focused on national issues over which they have little control and they should have focused more on state issues,” said former Gov. Dave Heineman, a Republican who was in Mr. Herbster’s pay after his departure. Office. He has not given his approval yet.

Mr Pillen played down Mr Trump’s influence in the race.

“Nebraskas, we like to figure things out and solve our own problems and think for ourselves,” he said.

Mr. Lindstrom, a 41-year-old state senator who also played football for Nebraska, is running a campaign transported from the pre-Trump era. He points to cooperation with Democrats in Nebraska’s unicameral Legislature and, while he said he doesn’t regret voting twice for Mr Trump, said he would prefer “a new face ” in 2024.

While Nebraska’s Republican primaries are usually decided by rural conservative voters deeply loyal to Mr. Trump, Mr. Lindstrom, a wobbly financial adviser, is betting his campaign on appealing to urban professionals around Omaha – where Mr. Trump lost one of the states. The Electoral College votes for President Biden.

“The style and brand that’s going on in the Republican Party right now has created a lot of corners,” Lindstrom said. “It’s not really healthy.”

At a Wednesday fundraiser for Mr. Lindstrom at an upscale Italian restaurant in Omaha, about half of two dozen people polled said they had voted for Mr. Biden in 2020. A handful had switched parties to vote for Mr. Lindstrom in the primary.

Allen Frederickson, chief executive of a health care company who turned Republican to vote for Mr. Lindstrom, said Mr. Herbster’s election would make it difficult to recruit workers in Nebraska’s booming economy, who has the lowest unemployment rate in the country.

“Trumpism would impact our internal and external image as a state,” he said. “We need Nebraska to be an attractive state from a business perspective.”

Mr. Herbster makes little effort to appeal outside of Trump’s constituency. He begins his speeches, whether to capped Trump supporters in Wahoo or bankers in suburban Omaha, by offering “greetings from the 45th President of the United States of America, Donald J. Trump.”

Like Mr. Trump, Mr. Herbster questions the legitimacy of the US election. In Wahoohe advanced a far-fetched theory about the loss of the former president.

“It’s the truth,” he told his followers. “The pandemic came from China. The timing was perfect to make sure they could rig the election so that Mark Zuckerberg could pump $400 million into the balance sheet for the last four months of the election. Because, like it or not, they didn’t want Donald J. Trump to be president for two terms is exactly what happened.

Mr. Herbster has little use or interest in the traditions of Nebraska politics. He called for ending the state’s nonpartisan election system, eliminating the state board of education, and said that on his first day in office he would ask the tourism board to change its original tagline:Nebraska. Honestly it’s not for everyone.”

The question Republican primary voters in Nebraska will grapple with on Tuesday is whether any of that matters — or matters more than Mr. Trump’s stamp of approval.

“That’s it,” said former Omaha rep Lee Terry, a Herbster supporter. “There are a lot of Trump people in Nebraska.”



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Newsrust - US Top News: In Nebraska, a Trump-inspired candidate is splitting open division in the GOP
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