Election 2022: Tough Nebraska GOP governor primary sees Pillen triumph over Trump-endorsed Herbster

Lindstrom takes early lead but slips to 3rd place after race called for NU Regent
The Associated Press projected Jim Pillen as Nebraska's Republican gubernatorial primary candidate.
Published: May. 10, 2022 at 5:40 PM CDT
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - As expected, the Republican primary race for Nebraska governor was close — until it wasn’t.

According to the Nebraska Secretary of State’s website, Brett Lindstrom led the pack in very early results released right at 8 p.m. Tuesday, but Jim Pillen was within a 0.5% by 9:30 p.m. with Charles Herbster in third with 26.5%.

Pillen tightened the gap not long after, and The Associated Press called the race for him at about 10:30 p.m.

This crowd is fired up.

With 1,257 of 1,328 precincts reporting after midnight:

  • Pillen, a University of Nebraska regent, had a third of Nebraska Republican votes, or 84,460 votes.
  • Despite Lindstrom’s early lead in the count, he fell to third place by the time Pillen had been declared the winner, and made his concession speech shortly thereafter. At the end of the night, he had 26% of state GOP votes, amounting to 66,069 votes.
  • Herbster started out the night in third place, but gained on Lindstrom as more rural-centered counties’ counts came and was at 30.4% — or 77,058 votes — at night’s end.
  • By comparison, Democrat Carol Blood had secured 81,557 votes.

Herbster’s loss also brought about a loss in former President Trump’s camp. Trump was in Nebraska just nine days earlier stumping for the candidate he endorsed early in the race — and endorsement that led to a prickly exchange with Gov. Pete Ricketts, who later endorsed Pillen. But Herbster has also been mired in a legal dispute after several women, including State Sen. Julie Slama, accused him of groping them at political events a few years ago.

Campaign dollars

Nine people were in the Republican race for governor; four did the most advertising.

Often in elections, you follow the money. At last check earlier this month:

  • Herbster had raised more than $11 million in the race
  • Pillen had raised more than $8 million
  • Lindstrom had raised around $2.5 million
  • Thibodeau had raised around $300,000

Ahead of the polls closing, 6 News asked an Omaha political consultant if he had any predictions for Tuesday night.

“I remarked earlier today to a friend of mine — there are two kinds of people who know what’s going to happen in Nebraska right now: those who want to brag at cocktail parties and those who are full of it, and usually those are the same people,” said Ryan Horn with Bulldog Communications. “The fact of the matter is, it’s very difficult to predict what will happen.”


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