Herbster, Lindstrom, Thibodeau agree to debate in gov’s race; Pillen says no

Nebraska Public Media to hold debate March 24, before early voting starts

By: - February 9, 2022 7:59 pm

Six Nebraska’s candidates for governor participated in a forum in Lincoln hosted by the Nebraska Chambers Association. From left: State Sen. Carol Blood, Charles Herbster, State Sen. Brett Lindstrom, NU Regent Jim Pillen, Breeland Ridenour and former State Sen. Theresa Thibodeau. (Aaron Sanderford/Nebraska Examiner)

Three of the top four Republican candidates running for governor will appear on a Nebraska debate stage together in March.

GOP candidates Charles Herbster, State Sen. Brett Lindstrom and former State Sen. Theresa Thibodeau will debate March 24 on Nebraska Public Media, which Nebraskans know as NET-TV.

University of Nebraska Regent Jim Pillen declined the debate invitation, citing a previously scheduled “internal event,” organizers said.

GOP governor’s debate

Where: Lincoln, in studio

When: 7 p.m. March 24

How to watch: Nebraska Public Media, TV and the web

Pillen’s campaign said he has been organizing an event in Lincoln for weeks that could not be moved. He and Herbster have faced criticism from other candidates for avoiding debates.

Kenny Zoeller, Pillen’s campaign manager, said that Pillen is participating in forums with the other candidates and that he considers debates and forums on an individual basis.

“We take person-to-person campaigning seriously, and we keep our commitments,” Zoeller said.

Herbster’s campaign said he was glad to participate in the hourlong debate.

Herbster and Pillen have yet to agree to participate in the same debate before the May 10 primary election. Both were criticized for turning down a KMTV/Omaha World-Herald debate, a GOP primary staple for years. 

Thibodeau’s campaign said she rearranged her schedule to make sure she could attend the Nebraska Public Media debate. She said candidates who avoid debates don’t want to be held accountable. 

Lindstrom’s campaign said he considers debates a “critical element of the decision-making process for voters.”

Republican candidate Breland Ridenour is also participating.

Nebraska Public Media News Director Dennis Kellogg will moderate the debate. Candidates won’t be given questions in advance.


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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 worked as an assignment editor and editorial writer. He was an investigative reporter at KMTV.