Jim Pillen won the Nebraska Republican gubernatorial primary on Tuesday. “Nebraska voters made it clear tonight that they value conservative leadership that represents their Christian, conservative values,” Pillen stated after his win. “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.”
In the lead-up to Tuesday's election, the race was seen as an even race between Pillen, state Senator Brett Lindstrom, and businessman Charles Herbster, who earned an endorsement from former President Donald Trump. However, the advantages of Pillen's fundraising may have helped him get over the line, as Pillen raised the most donations of all the candidates.
After Herbster’s defeat, Trump's flawless endorsement record during the midterm elections of 2022 ended. In a strange campaign decision, Pillen refused to attend any debates with his rivals. He opted to attend candidate forums and smaller gatherings with voters. This led to Pillen organizing more than 400 meetings with voters across every one 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 stated about the plan.
Although he was not able to get Trump's support, Pillen voted for the former president in both the 2016 and 2020 elections. Pillen was backed by the most prominent state Republicans, which included Nebraska Governor Pete Ricketts (R) and former Governor Kay Orr (R). Pillen's most popular endorsements included Nebraska football head coach Tom Osborn and entertainment personality Larry the Cable Guy.
A few of the most prominent issues Pillen ran on were rejecting critical race theories as well as advocating for police officers, protecting the southern border, ending President Joe Biden's border crisis, and fighting for rights under the Second Amendment.
As a University of Nebraska regent, Pillen introduced a resolution that sought to block the introduction of critical race theories on campus. However, he received criticism on the campaign trail due to his support for a resolution that led to the creation of the Office of Diversity and Inclusion on campus. The Nebraska Examiner reported that Herbster had highlighted Pillen's 2018 vote as a University of Nebraska regent to support the hiring of the head of an entirely newly created Office of Diversity and Inclusion at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. The office was founded after being studied for four years in response to racism-related incidents at UNL's campus. Pillen was elected as a NU regent in 2013.
Concerning the police force, Pillen said attempts to discredit police funding are “reckless and dangerous.” Pillen was also a pro-life candidate and a staunch opponent of taxpayer-funded abortions. His campaign was focused on agricultural taxes and land use. These are issues that affect many Nebraskans. He suggested limiting the growth in school expenditures in order to increase the amount of the state's property tax funding school funds.
Pillen has said he will manage the government as he operates the hog farm he owns with his family. “In business, we don't start self-appointed budget increases,” Pillen explained. “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 be competing against Democrat candidate Carol Blood for governor in an election that Pillen is expected to win since Nebraska hasn't elected a Democrat to the governorship since 1995.