Lindstrom, Herbster, Pillen each has a path to win, poll finds

By: - April 25, 2022 7:00 pm

(Stephen Maturen/Getty Images)

LINCOLN — Nebraska’s Republican race for governor is a tangle at the top, with three candidates essentially tied and a distant fourth perhaps positioned to play spoiler.

State Sen. Brett Lindstrom, Conklin Co. CEO Charles Herbster and University of Nebraska Regent Jim Pillen each registered between 24% and 28% support in a new third-party poll. 

A Neilan Strategy Group poll indicated 28% support for Lindstrom, 26% for Herbster, 24% for Pillen and 6% for former State Sen. Theresa Thibodeau. The poll indicated 16% of voters were undecided.

That puts the top three candidates within the poll’s 4.9% margin of error. It surveyed 858 likely Nebraska GOP primary voters on April 19-20 via text and telephone. 

Because support for the top three fell within the margin of error, it’s hard to say for certain who’s leading, said Perre Neilan. He said his political and government affairs firm paid for the poll, rather than a client, candidate or campaign. 

The new poll was taken shortly after a Nebraska Examiner report was published, on April 14, in which eight women alleged that Herbster groped them. Herbster has denied the allegations. 

In a followup report April 19, three people spoke to the Examiner on the record to confirm three of the women’s accounts. The poll was conducted that day and the following day. 

The poll’s results roughly mirrored a Lindstrom campaign poll from mid-April. That poll also found all three candidates within the margin of error. It indicated that Lindstrom and Pillen were tied at 27%, with Herbster at 23%. 

The Herbster and Pillen campaigns, when asked for comment after the Lindstrom poll, said they have seen the race tighten in internal polling, with different leaders, depending on the poll.

All three of the top candidates face potential pitfalls in the race’s final weeks, the Neilan Strategy Group poll indicates. 

Among the voters surveyed, 42% said they were less likely to vote for a candidate who was caught polluting the water. The poll did not name anyone specifically. Herbster has run a negative TV ad accusing Pillen’s business of doing so.

Some 49% of voters surveyed said they would be less likely to vote for someone accused of groping eight women. Again, no specific name was mentioned, but that reflects the allegations against Herbster. 

And 43% of the voters surveyed said they were less likely to vote for someone who had increased the gas tax. Lindstrom voted for a six-cent gas tax increase in 2015, which has been the subject of negative TV ads.

All three candidates are racing to motivate their supporters to get to the polls and are trying to woo undecided voters, Neilan said, before the May 10 primary election.

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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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