Herbster and Pillen squabble over the importance of a governor having children

By: - January 25, 2022 5:00 am

Charles Herbster and Jim Pillen, two of the Republicans running for governor, are squabbling over family. (Herbster photo courtesy of his campaign; Pillen photo by Rebecca S. Gratz for Nebraska Examiner)

Two top Republicans running for governor squabbled Monday over University of Nebraska Regent Jim Pillen’s recent comments on parenthood and public service.

Pillen, asked last week what separated him from fellow GOP competitors, said having children gave him perspective and focused him on the next generation.

“If you don’t have a family, it doesn’t make you a bad person,” said Pillen, who has four children and seven grandchildren. “But it’s a distinct, significant difference in how you view life when there’s more to the world than just you.” 

Some viewed his comments as a shot at his best-known opponent: agribusiness and roofing company owner Charles Herbster, a widower with no children. 

On Monday, Herbster responded. He described Pillen’s comments as unfair to Nebraskans who choose not to have children or cannot have them. 

Herbster said in a statement that he and his late wife, Judy, who died in 2017, helped other people with their children, even though they did not have children of their own.

“Jim Pillen has proved he lacks the empathy and compassion for those Nebraskans whose families don’t look like his,” Herbster said. 

Pillen said Monday he was not attacking Herbster. He said Herbster highlighted not having a family during his speech in April announcing his campaign.

Herbster, Pillen pointed out, also said during an April radio interview that having no family might make it easier for him to handle the attacks that are part of being governor.

Charles Herbster has publicly stated he believes he is more qualified to be governor because he has no family,” Pillen said in a statement. “Now, he’s attacking me when I say that parenting is an important perspective for our next governor to have.”

Theresa Thibodeau, Herbster’s former running mate who is now seeking the GOP nomination herself, also criticized Pillen. Both she and Herbster called on Pillen to quit the race. Pillen is in the race to stay, his campaign said.

Herbster called on Ricketts to rescind his Jan. 18 endorsement of Pillen. He did not.

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Aaron Sanderford
Aaron Sanderford

Political reporter Aaron Sanderford has tackled various news roles in his 20-plus year career. He has reported on politics, crime, courts, government and business for the Omaha World-Herald and Lincoln Journal-Star. He also spent several years as an assignment editor and worked two stints as an editorial writer. From 2005 to 2007, he served as communications director for then-Nebraska Gov. Dave Heineman. Aaron most recently was the lead investigative reporter for KMTV 3 in Omaha, focusing on holding public officials accountable. His work has received awards from the Associated Press, Great Plains Journalism and more.

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