Trump came to Nebraska to defend a candidate facing allegations of sexual misconduct, but voters aren’t quite sure any of that will matter on Tuesday.

But like many of the more than 50 voters CNN spoke to here, most of them Republicans, 59-year-old Lisa Ketcham said she had “mixed” feelings about the allegations, amid a backlash from the businessman and farmer, who denied them . Ketcham, a Republican from Omaha, said the allegations raised her concerns but neither controversy nor Trump’s endorsement will be the motivating factor when she casts her vote.

In an interview with CNN, Herbster dismissed the allegations as “political slander.”

“They did it to Donald J. Trump. They did it to Brett Kavanaugh,” Herbster said, referring to sexual assault allegations against the former president and current Supreme Court justice.
Herbster’s vociferous denials, his targeting of one of his accusers in an ad, his swift move toward litigation against her, and his apparent lack of interest in thinking about how some of his past interactions with women might have caused him discomfort are all reminiscent of how Trump went without an apology. The accusations leveled at him during his 2016 campaign. For years after that, Trump portrayed himself as a “victim” as he criticized what he saw as targeting men during the account’s height about sexual harassment known as the viral hashtag #MeToo.

As was the case for Trump, this aggressive strategy appears to be helping Herbster weather the accusations. In interviews with Nebraska voters in recent days, there has been little evidence that accusations of sexual misconduct played a major role in their exchanges one way or the other.

Ketcham, the 59-year-old from Omaha interviewed by CNN at the Village Pointe mall, said she plans to do her “research” on Herbster, “as much as he can do for Nebraska,” but is leaning toward Belin, Herbster’s main competitor. However, she said she wanted to see the women’s allegations investigated more deeply: “If he[Herbster]wants to have any kind of influence, he has to clarify those allegations.”

But conversations with voters suggested that Ricketts’ support for Palin may ultimately carry more weight on Tuesday than Trump’s support for Herbster. Although Trump won Nebraska by 58% to 39% over incumbent Joe Biden and remains popular among GOP voters, Ricketts has campaigned vigorously against Herbster, a longtime political rival who has said he is unfit for governor. .
Nebraska State Pete Ricketts, shown here in 2018, supports Jim Palin for governor.

Many of the state’s voters said they supported Belen, in part because of Ricketts’ belief in him and his focus on economic issues, while others said they supported Lindstrom because they thought he was less passive. Some voters expressed distaste for the negativity of Herbster’s ads, as well as general fatigue from “distraction,” one voter put it, at a time when Nebraskans face pressing economic concerns such as inflation.

“The issues of the world affect us like everyone else,” said 64-year-old Vicki Ewen. “Gas goes up, the growth rate goes up, we fertilize. We can’t provide fertilizer to farmers, we are an agricultural community.” An old republican working in an agricultural supply, maintenance and distribution company. “These farmers are suffering.”

Allegations against Herbster

Public scrutiny of Herbster’s behavior with women began with the Nebraska Examiner’s report in mid-April detailing the eight women’s accounts. The only person who agreed to be named at first was Republic Republic Moon. Julie Salama who said Herbster sexually assaulted her By reaching and touching her skirt without her consent at the 2019 GOP dinner.

Herbster declared the allegations “false and malicious lies,” and sued Salama in Johnson County District Court, claiming that Salameh’s “false statements” had resulted in “serious damage to his reputation.”

In her April 25 counter-suit alleging sexual battery, Salama said she was “shocked, humiliated, and shocked by Herbster’s actions” at a GOP dinner in 2019 — when she was 22 years old — and said she was “also afraid of the reprisals that could be brought about by her. Happens. Speak if she came forward because she knew Herbster was a millionaire and a major benefactor to the Nebraska Republican Party.”

In late April, Elizabeth Todson, one of eight women who spoke to the Nebraska Examiners, introduced herself publicly. In a statement provided by her attorney to CNN, Todson said Herbster “feeled her” while greeting her at her table at the same Republican dinner, and that the decision to “show my story was very difficult due to my fear of repercussions” from Herbster, who she described as a “strong voice in Nebraska politics.”

Herbster’s political opponents defended the women. Ricketts, a close ally of Salama – who served as press secretary for his 2018 campaign and was later appointed by Ricketts to fill a vacancy in the state’s unicameral legislature – said the allegations were “beyond terrible,” and said Herbster should seek pardon and urged him for treatment.
Jim Palin, center, talks about his campaign after receiving approval from Ricketts, right, in January.
Belin said that “sexual abuse of women should lead to the disqualification of anyone seeking to serve as a leader” and that he was praying for the women. Lindstrom said He was “disgusted to read the stories of my colleague, Senator Salama, and other brave women,” adding, “We need to listen to and stand with the victims.”

But Herbster, who has already spent at least $11.3 million to fund his own campaign, according to financial reports, refused to back down.

When asked by CNN if he could remember his 2019 encounters with Slama and Todsen – and how his memories differed from theirs – he repeatedly brushed off the question by saying their calculations were “100% wrong” and noted that he goes to “hundreds” and hundreds of events all the time. “.

Herbster compared his situation to that of Trump — who was accused of a range of misconduct by at least 15 women during his 2016 campaign, which he all denied — and the firestorm that faced Kavanaugh in 2018 after he was accused of sexual assault. Decades ago at a high school party, an allegation he denied.

Herbster took these arguments to the airwaves. An ad that uses Jenga as a metaphor for what the narrator suggests are “piled lies” against the alleged candidate’s decisions as a smear campaign orchestrated by Ricketts and Bellin. The two men’s advisers told CNN the claim was absurd.

“It is absurd to suggest that I or anyone else conspired to speak with eight women and even more witnesses to fabricate stories about Charles Herbster,” Ricketts said in a statement to CNN. “This is just unreasonable.”

The ad targets Salama, claiming that she kept in touch with Herbster through text messages and calls after the alleged incident in 2019 and “even invited Herbster to her intended wedding,” the narrator echoed.

Salameh’s attorney, Dave Lopez, described the announcement in a statement to CNN as an attempt to “silence victims of sexual assault” and said his “conspiratorial allegations that the allegations were orchestrated as a defamation campaign are false.” Her and her husband’s politicians were used to “generate wedding invitations”.

Her counterclaim acknowledges that Herbster donated $10,000 to her 2020 legislative campaign but denies his claim that she “unilaterally sought to contact him” in both professional and social ways” in the years following the 2019 dinner. His lawsuit included a single text message he received from Salama in January 2022, to which he replied, “I’m sorry (from) this one who’s getting so many text messages.”

When asked by CNN why he was suing Salameh, Herbster noted that he had six businesses and said he would do whatever was necessary to clear his name.

Some doubt the timing of the accusations

Even among Belen and Lindstrom’s supporters, some expressed strong skepticism about the fact that the accusations surfaced close to the primaries.

Ewen, the Republican who works at the farming company, said she believed the allegations were politically motivated but added that she was already leaning toward Belin when they appeared. “I’ve been around since 1988 doing political stuff, so that’s what people like to dig for,” she said.

John van Heusen, a 69-year-old from Syracuse who said he plans to vote for Lindstrom, wasn’t convinced by the allegations against Herbster: “You never know. This is politics,” he said.

Some voters said they support Moon State.  Brett Lindstrom, seen here in 2019, because they think his campaign was less negative.

Herbster voters shared this concern. “Why is it suddenly being brought up now?” I asked Shannon Martinez, a 41-year-old Republican from Sarpy County, who said she plans to vote for him.

Others still make their decisions. Jane, a 36-year-old hospice nurse from Omaha, who spoke on condition of only giving her first name, said she was planning to vote for Herbster, but the allegations against him “pushed pain” and “make it” a really difficult decision. Thinking she would vote for him, she said she was waiting to see “if anything comes out more”.

When asked what he would say to female voters who want women to be taken seriously, Herbster told CNN that his grandmother taught him three things: “She said, ‘You always pull out a chair for a lady. You help her take off her coat. . You always open the car door. “I have always been raised to respect and honor all women, all females of any age,” he added. This is how I lived my entire life. ”

Herbster said that many Nebraskans have approached him in recent weeks to tell him they are praying for him.

“I don’t like having to use this to be useful,” he said, “but I think it was helpful for the campaign. I think it motivated people, it got more people out to vote.”

If the allegations had no further political impact, they brought Trump into the country. Trump, who appeared in Greenwood at a recent rally, called Herbster, a major Trump campaign donor whom he appointed in 2016 to chair the Agricultural and Rural Advisory Committee, a “good guy” who has been “badly hurt.”

“That’s why I came here,” said the former president.

While Trump’s endorsement may have created a support ground for Herbster, it remains to be seen if his gesture can catapult Herbster over the finish line, especially when Ricketts’ support for Pillen has significant weight in this case. Henceforth, political strategists argue that Lindstrom could score a victory, buoyed by voters fended off by the negativity of the other two campaigns.

At a Walmart in La Vista, Zach, a 21-year-old Republican voter, said the allegations against Herbster complicate the decision-making process.

“Originally, I was sure I would vote for Herbster, and then I started looking at Belin,” he said. While he likes Trump, he said the support for Ricketts brought him to Palin’s attention.

“When the ruler endorses a different person,” he said, “that is divided.”

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