Jim Pillen, a hog farmer and University of Nebraska regent, won the Nebraska Republican Nomination for governor on Tuesday, according to a projection by the Associated Press.
“Nebraska voters made it clear tonight that they value conservative leadership that represents their Christian, conservative values,” Pillen said after his victory. “I want to thank all those across our great state who helped put our campaign over the top tonight. Tonight, we will celebrate a great victory. Tomorrow, it’s back to work in the fight to keep Nebraska great.”
Going into Tuesday’s election, the race was thought of as a dead heat between Pillen, state Sen. Brett Lindstrom, and businessman Charles Herbster, who earned an endorsement from former President Donald Trump. However, Pillen’s fundraising advantage may have pushed him over the finish line, as he raised the most donor money out of all the candidates.
With Herbster’s loss, Trump’s perfect endorsement record in the 2022 midterm cycle has ended. In an unusual campaign move, Pillen refused to attend any of the debates held with his opponents, opting instead for candidate forums and smaller meetings with voters. As a result, Pillen held over 400 meetings with voters in all of Nebraska’s 93 counties.
“It’s really, really important that all 93 counties matter. The entire state of Nebraska matters, all the people of Nebraska matter, and, it’s the last day, we’re trying to reach areas where we’ve got a lot of Republican votes and we’re just trying to get more of our fair share of them,” Pillen said of the strategy.
Although he did not earn Trump’s endorsement, Pillen voted for the former president in the 2016 and 2020 contests. Pillen was supported by the state’s top Republicans, including Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts (R) and former Gov. Kay Orr.
Pillen’s top endorsements also included Nebraska football coach Tom Osborn and entertainment personality Larry the Cable Guy.
Some of the top issues Pillen campaigned on included rejecting critical race theory, standing up for law enforcement officers, securing the southern border and ending President Joe Biden’s border crisis, and defending the Second Amendment.
As a University of Nebraska regent, Pillen proposed a resolution to prevent the imposition of critical race theory on campuses. However, he faced criticism on the campaign trail for his support of a vote that led to creating an Office of Diversity and Inclusion on the campus.
As the Nebraska Examiner reported:
Herbster pointed to Pillen’s 2018 vote, as a University of Nebraska regent, in support of hiring a leader to create a new Office of Diversity and Inclusion at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. The office was created after being studied for four years following race-related incidents on UNL’s campus. Pillen has been an NU regent since 2013.
On law enforcement, Pillen said attempts to defund the police are “reckless and dangerous.”
Pillen also ran as a pro-life candidate and opposed taxpayer-funded abortions.
His campaign focused on agricultural and property tax issues, issues that impact many Nebraskans. He proposed capping school spending growth as a way to make state property tax funds a larger portion of school funding.
Pillen has pledged to run the government like he runs his family’s hog farm. “In business, we don’t start self-appointed budget increases,” he said. “We always figure out how to do more with less. We have to continue that mantra and make sure that we have less government invasion and we spend less money so we keep more money.”
Pillen will face Democrat nominee for governor, Carol Blood, in an election he is expected to win handily as Nebraska has not elected a Democrat for governor since 1995.