By TCG Staff
Jim Pillen won the GOP nomination for Governor yesterday, defeating Charles W. Herbster by a slim margin of 9,501 votes out of 261,518 ballots cast. Dr. Pillen received 33.87% of the vote compared to 30.23% for Mr. Herbster, a difference of 3.64%. In third place was State Sen. Brett Lindstrom with 25.76%.
Finishing a distant fourth was former State Sen. Theresa Thibodeau, who garnered only 6.06% of the ballots cast. She was trailed by Breland Ridenour at 1.73%, Michael Connely at 1.06%, Donna Nicole Carpenter at 0.58%, Lela McNinch at 0.43% and Troy Wentz at 0.26%.
Upon the closing of polls in most of Nebraska at 8 pm Central time, the election drama started. Sen. Lindstrom took an early lead due to his ties with Omaha, where ballots were tabulated quickly. Dr. Pillen, however, eventually moved to first place.
Mr. Herbster overtook Sen. Lindstrom for second place as ballots were counted in western Nebraska, a stronghold for the Herbster campaign. Unfortunately for Mr. Herbster, there simply were not enough ballots cast for him in the west to make up the shortfall elsewhere.
State Sen. Carol Blood defeated Roy A. Harris with 88.46% of the vote in Nebraska’s Democratic gubernatorial primary. She will face Dr. Pillen in the November general election for Governor of Nebraska.
Mr. Herbster gave a gracious late night concession speech to supporters gathered at Lincoln Station, noting that he got “far more [votes] than even what Governor Ricketts received in 2014 when he ran the first race.” In answer to a remark from the audience, Mr. Herbster also noted that he had not ruled out a second run for governor. This observation could be significant, because it took Ronald Reagan a second run in 1980 to win the Presidency after his first run in 1976 was impeded by dirty tricks orchestrated by supporters of President Ford.
Veteran political observers, including from the State Senate, told The Cornhusker Guardian last night that Mr. Herbster would have won had it not been for the candidacy of Sen. Thibodeau, which they said had been encouraged by Gov. Ricketts. Though she won a small percentage of total votes cast, the 15,681 which she won were in absolute terms far more than Dr. Pillen’s margin of victory.
If Sen. Thibodeau receives an appointment from either Gov. Ricketts (or Dr. Pillen if he takes office), this will raise the suspicions of some people outside the Republican establishment that a deal was made between Sen. Thibodeau and the Ricketts political machine.
Even with the Thibodeau candidacy, these political observers said, a Herbster victory would have been likely had it not been for the the “late hit” allegations about the putative “groping” of Sen. Julie Slama.
Mr. Herbster noted after his concession speech that his lawsuit against Sen. Slama would continue. A “born again” Christian who belongs to the Baptist faith, he had said previously that his reputation was damaged at his church and in the business community, and so he is determined to “clear his name.”
The Cornhusker Guardian will continue to report on the Herbster-Slama lawsuit.