Nebraska election results 2022 deal a blow to Trump's kingmaker credentials

Trump-backed Charles Herbster, facing groping allegations, defeated by Jim Pillen

Former US president Donald Trump suffered his first primary defeat by proxy as Nebraska candidate Charles Herbster lost his Republican race. AFP

Republican voters in Nebraska chose Jim Pillen as their nominee for governor, siding with the University of Nebraska regent backed by the state’s outgoing governor over a rival accused of groping numerous women and supported by former US president Donald Trump.

Mr Pillen, a pig farm owner and veterinarian, defeated eight challengers, including Charles Herbster, a businessman who faced groping allegations late in the campaign, and Brett Lindstrom, a state senator and Omaha financial adviser who was generally viewed as a more moderate choice.

“We live in the greatest place on the planet, right here in Nebraska,” Mr Pillen said in a victory speech late on Tuesday as a crowd cheered and chanted: “Let’s go, Jim!”

He said his opponents had called to concede. While Trump-endorsed candidates won primary races in West Virginia for the US House on Tuesday, the statewide loss in Nebraska was a setback for the former president.

He has issued hundreds of endorsements and staged his signature campaign-style rallies in support of his preferred candidates, including Mr Herbster, all in an effort to bend the Republican Party in his direction ahead of another possible presidential run in 2024.

Mr Herbster’s loss raises the stakes on other high-profile races this month in Pennsylvania and Georgia, where Mr Trump has also intervened in campaigns.

In this Republican stronghold, Mr Pillen will be a favourite in November’s general election against his Democratic opponent, state senator Carol Blood. Nebraska has not elected a Democrat as governor since 1994.

Nebraska governor hopeful Charles Herbster lost his Republican primary race despite former US president Donald Trump's endorsement. AFP

In West Virginia, meanwhile, voters embraced Trumpism by choosing Congressman Alex Mooney — who has Mr Trump's support — over fellow politician Dave McKinley, who angered the Republican leader by backing a $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure package signed into law last year.

“I Love West Virginia. Congratulations to Alex Mooney on his BIG WIN!!!” Mr Trump said on Truth Social, his new social media platform.

Mr McKinley had also supported the creation of a commission to investigate the 2021 US Capitol riot over which the former president was impeached.

The candidates — both currently serving in the House of Representatives — were forced into the tussle in a newly drawn district after West Virginia lost a House seat.

In Nebraska, the allegations against Mr Herbster, a longtime supporter of Mr Trump, did not stop the former president from holding a rally with him this month.

“I really think he’s going to do just a fantastic job, and if I didn’t feel that, I wouldn’t be here,” said Mr Trump, who has denied several sexual misconduct allegations of his own.

— Agencies contributed to this report.

Updated: May 12, 2022, 6:09 AM