Trump’s Endorsement Power Takes a Hit as ‘Good Man’ Accused of Sexual Misconduct by Eight Women Loses Nebraska Primary

Jim Pillen won Nebraska’s stacked Republican primary for governor on Tuesday, defeating Charles Herbster — the Donald Trump-backed candidate whose campaign was marred by sexual assault allegations.

Herbster, an agriculture industry CEO known for wearing a large cowboy hat, has been accused of sexual misconduct by eight women. One of them, State. Sen. Julie Slama, said Herbster reached up her skirt and grabbed her without consent during a Republican event in 2019. Another, Elizabeth Todsen, at the time a 23-year-old government employee, said Herbster groped her at the same event. “It was just all a blur after that happened, because it was all I could think about,” she recently told the Nebraska Examiner. “I just remember sitting there, and we were listening to the speakers … thinking, ‘How do you support this man?’”

Herbster has denied the allegations.

Jim Pillen, a regent at the University of Nebraska, had several powerful backers, including outgoing Republican Governor Pete Ricketts. Trump, however, backed Herbster, buoying him into contention against the establishment favorite. The former president even traveled to Nebraska to hold a rally for Herbster last month, calling him “a good man, a very good man.” (Trump has been accused of sexual misconduct by at least 18 women.)

“Charles is a fine man and he is innocent of these despicable charges,” Trump added in Nebraska. “I have to defend my friends, I have to defend people that are good. These are malicious charges to derail him long enough that the election can go by before the proper defense can be put forward.”

The race between Herbster and Pillen wasn’t the only primary on Tuesday with major implications for the power of Trump’s endorsement heading into the midterms. West Virginia Republican Rep. Alex Mooney beat GOP incumbent Rep. David McKinley in West Virginia’s 2nd Congressional District Republican primary. The men had been vying for the party’s nomination to stay in Congress after the state lost one of its seats due to its declining population. Mooney was Trump’s preferred candidate, while McKinley was backed by several of the state’s notable establishment figures — including Republican Governor Jim Justice and Democrat Sen. Joe Manchin.

Trump had attacked McKinley for voting for President Biden’s bipartisan infrastructure bill, accusing the lawmaker of “betraying Republican voters in West Virginia and the great people of West Virginia” during a tele-rally last week.

Trump was riding high heading into Tuesday, as his stretch-run endorsement of J.D. Vance propelled the Hillbilly Elegy author to the Republican nomination for Senate in Ohio late last month. However, the former president’s high-profile endorsement of fellow television charlatan Dr. Mehmet Oz in Pennsylvania’s senate primary — which takes place May 17 — doesn’t appear to have generated much enthusiasm within the MAGA base.

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