Ricketts endorses fellow Republican Jim Pillen for governor
LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — Nebraska gubernatorial candidate Jim Pillen scored a big endorsement Tuesday from Gov. Pete Ricketts, a fellow Republican who backed the University of Nebraska regent to be his successor.
Ricketts picked Pillen out of a crowded GOP field ahead of the party’s primary election on May 10.
Ricketts said he backed Pillen because of his conservative credentials and longstanding ties to Nebraska and agriculture. Pillen is a family farm owner and veterinarian who grew up in Nebraska, played football for the Huskers and now serves on the university’s governing board.
“Jim understands our state,” Ricketts said at a press conference at the Capitol. “He understands what it’s going to take to continue leading this state going forward... He’s going to continue to build on the things that have worked here in our state.”
Pillen has also won support from former Nebraska Gov. Kay Orr and former Huskers football coach Tom Osborne.
Ricketts’ endorsement comes less than three months after one of Pillen’s competitors, Falls City agriculture businessman Charles Herbster, won support from Donald Trump, who remains hugely popular in most of the state.
Trump’s endorsement opened an unusual divide with Ricketts, who often praises the former president. Ricketts has made little secret of his disdain for Herbster, taking shots at his decision to open some of his businesses in states other than Nebraska. When Herbster’s campaign announced the Trump endorsement, Ricketts issued a press release a few hours later arguing that Herbster isn’t qualified to serve as governor.
Pillen said Tuesday that he would continue many of Ricketts’ efforts in office, including a push to run state government like a business, limit spending, lower taxes and fight for more restrictions on abortion access. He said he was “overwhelmed and humbled” to receive the governor’s endorsement after his campaign tour of all 93 Nebraska counties.
“All of us Nebraskans are seeing things a lot the same,” Pillen said. “We want a business approach to government, we want less government. We want to make our decisions, we want to problem solve, we want to make our communities special.”
Several other Republicans have announced campaigns, including Herbster’s former running mate, Theresa Thibodeau, a former state lawmaker and Douglas County Republican Party official.
Other candidates include state Sen. Brett Lindstrom, of Omaha, and Breland Ridenour, an information technology manager. Former Gov. Dave Heineman flirted with running again but ultimately decided not to launch another campaign.
On the Democratic side, state Sen. Carol Blood, of Omaha, is currently running for her party’s gubernatorial nomination.
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