Former President Donald Trump’s political comeback suffered a blow in Nebraska after his choice for the GOP gubernatorial nomination was beaten in the primary by a hog farm owner.
With almost all precincts reporting early Wednesday, Jim Pillen — who is also a veterinarian and a University of Nebraska regent — had 33.9% of the vote compared to 30.2% for Trump-endorsed Charles Herbster.
Trump had traveled to Nebraska late last month to hold one of his signature rallies for Herbster, whom Trump backed despite the businessman being accused late in the campaign of having groped several women.
“I really think he’s going to do just a fantastic job, and if I didn’t feel that, I wouldn’t be here,” said Trump, who has famously vehemently denied sexual misconduct allegations of his own.
Herbster — a longtime Trump supporter — shared photos of the pair together in his last-minute campaigning, as well as messages of support from Trump on his new Truth Social site.
“Nebraska, go out and vote for Charles W. Herbster. He will be a great Governor!” the former president wrote.
In a concession speech late Tuesday, Herbster alluded to the groping allegations and decried what he called “one of the nastiest campaigns for governor in the history of Nebraska.”
Trump has endorsed more than 150 GOP candidates as he tries to shape the Republican Party ahead of a possible 2024 presidential run. Just last week, Trump scored a major victory when “Hillbilly Elegy” author J.D. Vance emerged from a crowded field to win the GOP primary for US Senate in Ohio. The former president had endorsed Vance a little more than three weeks before primary day.
Tuesday’s election news wasn’t all bad for Trump. His preferred candidate in West Virginia’s 2nd Congressional District Republican primary, Rep. Alex Mooney, easily defeated fellow incumbent Rep. David McKinley
Trump had sharply criticized McKinley when he broke with the majority of his party and became one of 13 Republicans to vote with most House Democrats to support President Joe Biden’s $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill, with Trump calling him a RINO, or “Republican in Name Only.” The 45th president endorsed Mooney soon after the infrastructure vote in November.
Mooney hailed his victory as a “monumental night for West Virginians,” having called himself a “proud America First conservative” who “will do whatever I can to carry on [Trump’s] legacy of fighting for election integrity, defeating socialism, and supporting the Second Amendment in Congress.”
Two other Trump-endorsed House candidates cruised to victory in their Republican primaires — Rep. Carol Miller in West Virginia’s 1st District and Rep. Adrian Smith in Nebraska’s 3rd District.