What to see in Nebraska, West Virginia

OMAHA, Neb. – The top race in Tuesday’s Nebraska and West Virginia primary is a hard-fought Republican primary for Nebraska governor with a Donald Trump-backed candidate accused of groping several women.

Nebraska voters will also nominate candidates to replace former US Rep. Jeff Fortenberry, a Republican convicted in March of lying to federal authorities about an illegal campaign donation he received from a Nigerian billionaire.

In West Virginia, two incumbent congressmen face off in a Republican primary after the reshuffle cost the state a seat in the US House of Representatives.

What to watch in Tuesday’s primary:


In Nebraska’s Republican primary for governor, Trump endorsed Charles Herbster, a wealthy agricultural entrepreneur and rancher who has positioned himself as a political outsider.


Herbster was recently accused of groping young women, including a Nebraska state senator and a former Legislature employee. He vehemently denies the allegations and has filed a defamation lawsuit against lawmaker, state Senator Julie Slama. She filed a counterclaim, accusing Herbster of sexual violence. Despite the allegations, Trump has stood by Herbster and appeared with him at a rally last week.

His main rival is University of Nebraska Regent Jim Pillen, a former college football player and veterinarian who owns a pig farm and hog breeding company. Pills has garnered support from high-profile conservatives including Gov. Pete Ricketts, former Gov. Kay Orr, the influential Nebraska Farm Bureau and former Nebraska football coach Tom Osborne.


And in a surprising twist, Omaha State Senator Brett Lindstrom has also risen to top status, with support from Omaha’s Republican mayor and ads portraying himself as a “new generation” of leaders. It is considered a more moderate alternative to Herbster and Pillen.

The winner of the GOP primary is expected to face Senator Carol Blood, who is all but certain of winning the Democratic nomination for governor over a little-known candidate who has not actively campaigned.


The US House of Representatives primary in Nebraska is usually a low-key affair, with little turnover among Republican incumbents. But the state has a vacancy this year following Fortenberry’s resignation.

Fortenberry initially planned to seek re-election to a tenth term despite a federal indictment, and launched assault displays against his main challenger, Republican Sen. Mike Flood. After his conviction, he dropped his bid, and Flood gained momentum with the support of Ricketts and former Gov. Dave Heineman.


Flood is now the strong favorite for the 1st congressional district nomination from a field of five Republican candidates. Fortenberry’s name will still appear on the ballot because he withdrew after the state’s deadline to certify candidates.

The GOP nominee is expected to face Democratic Senator Patty Pansing Brooks in November. Pansing Brooks is up against University of Nebraska-Lincoln student Jazari Kual Zakaria in the Democratic primary.

Flood and Pansing Brooks will also face each other in a special election on June 28 to decide who will serve out the remainder of Fortenberry’s term. November’s general election will determine who fills the seat from January 2023.

The 1st congressional district includes part of eastern Nebraska, excluding Omaha and most of its suburbs. The Republican district includes Lincoln as well as large agricultural areas and small towns.



A Republican primary in West Virginia’s 2nd congressional district between two incumbents could hang on support for President Joe Biden’s $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill in the GOP-heavy state.

One of the incumbents, Rep. David McKinley, voted in favor of the law among the 13 Republicans in the House of Representatives. Citing the state’s “D” infrastructure rating from the American Society of Civil Engineers, he said it would have been a treason to vote on an issue so important to residents based on “partisan politics.”

West Virginia, one of the poorest states in the country, is set to receive $6 billion in infrastructure funding.

The other incumbent, Rep. Alex Mooney, voted against the infrastructure bill, winning Trump’s endorsement the day Biden signed the measure into law. Mooney and Trump have called McKinley and other Republicans who voted in favor of the RINOs, or Republicans In Name Only, infrastructure bill. Mooney called the bill “Biden and Speaker Nancy Pelosis’ spending master plan” and said it will contribute to inflation.


During their time in Congress, McKinley and Mooney voted together the vast majority of the time. But the vote on infrastructure will serve as a test of Trump’s clout in a state that wholeheartedly embraced him in two presidential elections.


Associated Press writer Leah Willingham of Charleston, South Carolina contributed to this report.


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Justin Scacco

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