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Herbster won't endorse Pillen until lawsuits resolve, campaign says

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While the Nebraska GOP preached a message of unity in the wake of a primary race that exposed cracks in the party, Charles Herbster's campaign made clear that he won't be endorsing Jim Pillen, the party nominee for governor, just yet.

"Charles is going to continue pursuing all legal avenues until his name is cleared," Herbster spokesperson Emily Novotny said in a statement. "The lawsuit was never about the governor’s race, but about returning honor to Mr. Herbster’s reputation. He will not endorse any gubernatorial candidate until that time."

Nebraska Republican Party general election kickoff

Charles Herbster mingles with the crowd during the Nebraska Republican Party general election kickoff Wednesday at the GOP state headquarters. 

Pillen, a hog producer and University of Nebraska regent, bested Herbster and other Republican gubernatorial candidates Tuesday in a contentious race that featured a volume of negative attacks that observers have called "unprecedented." Herbster and Pillen traded barbs from the get-go, and the dynamic only grew more bitter over time.

It became especially stark in October when former President Donald Trump endorsed Herbster, which then prompted Gov. Pete Ricketts, who supports Pillen, to say Herbster was unqualified for the role. 

In April, the Nebraska Examiner published allegations from eight women that Herbster had touched them inappropriately. At the time, conservative state Sen. Julie Slama was the only named accuser on the record. Elizabeth Todsen, a legislative staffer, went on the record with her name later.

Herbster has vehemently denied all of the allegations and maintained that they're a political hit job coordinated by Pillen and Ricketts. Both men have dismissed Herbster's claim. He filed a defamation lawsuit against Slama, who countersued alleging battery. That legal battle is ongoing.

A member of the campaign previously said lawyers were working on a separate lawsuit against the Examiner. Novotny did not immediately respond to a question regarding the status of that potential suit.

State GOP leaders urged Republicans to unite behind Pillen at an event Wednesday morning. Herbster conceded the race late Tuesday night and was present at that unity event. Sen. Brett Lindstrom, the third-place candidate, also conceded Tuesday and wasn't at the event but endorsed Pillen in his concession speech.

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