Charles Herbster, accused of groping 8 women, loses Nebraska gubernatorial race

Charles Herbster, accused of sexually assaulting eight women, lost the Republican primary for governor of Nebraska on Tuesday to regent Jim Pillen of the University of Nebraska.

The race was largely a three-way competition between Herbster, a multi-millionaire agribusiness executive; State Senator Brett Lindstrom and Pillen.

In 2021, Pillen introduced a resolution to ban the teaching of critical race theory in the university system. The Board of Regents, however, rejected it.

Yet much of the attention on the race has focused on Herbster – both his association with Donald Trump and his controversies.

Herbster is a longtime donor and ally of the former president, and he got a boost when Trump endorsed him late last year. Trump traveled to the state to campaign for him as recently as May Day and held a tele-rally less than a week before the election.

Trump – who himself faces charges of rape, assault and harassment from even more women – called Herbster a “good man” and said “he is innocent of these despicable accusations”.

“I have to stand up for my friends, I have to stand up for people who are good,” he told the crowd. “These are malicious charges to derail him long enough for the election to go ahead before the proper defense can be presented.”

Herbster’s endorsement of Trump did not sit well with many state Republicans. Last year, incumbent Governor Pete Ricketts (R) asked the former president to remain neutral. Ricketts then endorsed Pillen, saying Herbster would be a “terrible governor”.

Eight women accused Herbster of groping them, including a state senator from his own party. State Senator Julie Slama told the Nebraska Examiner that in 2019 she was at a GOP fundraiser dinner when she walked past Herbster. According to the examiner, “he pulled up her skirt, without her consent, and touched her inappropriately.”

Another woman who attended the same dinner and worked as a legislative aide in Nebraska said Herbster also assaulted her at the same dinner.

“For years I struggled with an experience I had with Charles W. Herbster,” Elizabeth Todsen said. “At a political event in 2019, Herbster sexually groped me while waving at my table.”

Herbster pulled a page from Trump’s playbook, denying the allegations and attacking the women who made the accusations. He even sued Slama for defamation, calling his claims “part of a larger calculated plan to try to derail my candidacy.”

But the accusations took their toll and Herbster lost momentum. The 13 women in the Nebraska state Senate – which includes both Democrats and Republicans – signed a letter saying Herbster’s alleged behavior was “completely unacceptable” and that he was “unfit to serve”.

Trump won Nebraska by 19 percentage points in the 2020 election, and there hasn’t been a Democratic governor there in decades. Pillen will face Democratic Senator Carol Blood in November.


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