Nebraska Governor Race Showcases Two Pro-Trump Forces Against Each Other Charles Herbster speaks to supporters, Monday, April 26, 2021, at the Heartland Country Barn in Fremont, Neb. Herbster officially announced his intention to run in Nebraska's upcoming gubernatorial election. (Kenneth Ferriera/Lincoln Journal Star via AP)
By Brian Freeman | Tuesday, 04 May 2021 10:15 AM
A clash between two pro-Trump megadonors, as one vies to succeed the other as governor of reliably Republican Nebraska, illustrates a growing phenomena ahead of 2022, as local factors might end up being more important than loyalty to the former president, Politico reported on Tuesday.
Republican megadonor and Nebraska gubernatorial candidate Charles Herbster has been a loyal supporter of Donald Trump from the very beginning, having been there at Trump's 2015 campaign kickoff and staying loyal throughout Trump's presidency.
When Herbster announced his candidacy last week, he emphasized his deep ties to Trump, according to the Lincoln Journal-Star.
"Everybody said: 'You're going to run for governor? You have to take the Trump [license] plates off,'" Herbster said. "And this is how loyal I am to the 45th president of the United States, I said: 'If it's the difference between being disloyal to President Trump or becoming governor of Nebraska, I will not be disloyal to the 45th president.'"
In addition, Herbster has tapped former Trump lieutenants Kellyanne Conway and Corey Lewandowski to help run his campaign.
He has a formidable adversary, however, in current Gov. Pete Ricketts, R, another wealthy Trump ally who appears determined to keep Herbster out of power, according to Politico.
Ricketts, who is term-limited and not running for reelection, has repeatedly accused Herbster's agricultural company of shipping jobs out-of-state — a charge Herbster vehemently denies.
"It’s an open secret in the Nebraska GOP that Gov. Ricketts has no love lost with Charles W. Herbster," said Ryan Horn, a Republican strategist in the state, which Trump won by almost 20 percentage points in 2020. Trump's endorsement is nearly certain to carry significant weight.
Although sitting governors rarely intervene in the campaigns to succeed them, Ricketts’ team is promoting attacks on Herbster through social media, and Ricketts’ longtime political adviser, Jessica Flanagain, has signed on with a Herbster primary opponent, millionaire hog farmer Jim Pillen — which is an early indication as to whom the governor may support.
Although there are a few factors cited why Ricketts opposes Herbster, Republicans in the state say the main reason the governor wants to stop Herbster is that having someone he regards as a foe in the governor’s mansion could become an obstacle if Ricketts decides to run for president in 2024.
Ricketts has taken steps to build a national profile in recent weeks, ramping up his criticism of President Joe Biden on social media and participating in a Fox News town hall event hosted by Laura Ingraham, both indications that he's considering a future run for the White House.
Herbster says, however, he has nothing against Ricketts and did not understand the governor’s decision to come out against him.
But he also reminded voters that “I spent two years in support of Donald Trump, when the Ricketts family was trying to do everything possible [to make sure] that he wouldn’t get elected” president in 2016 — showing that maybe Trump loyalty will emerge as a deciding factor after all.