Herbster says he’s thinking about 2024 Senate race, other political options

By: - February 8, 2023 10:32 am

Nebraska Republican gubernatorial candidate Charles Herbster accepts the endorsement of the State Troopers Association of Nebraska, the union that represents Nebraska State Patrol troopers during his 2022 bid for governor. (Aaron Sanderford/Nebraska Examiner)

OMAHA — Multi-state agribusinessman Charles Herbster might want another go at politics after losing the 2022 Republican primary for Nebraska governor to eventual Gov. Jim Pillen.

Nebraska’s new U.S. Sen. Pete Ricketts is sworn into Nebraska’s second Senate seat in Washington, D.C. (Courtesy of Ricketts for Senate)

Herbster, in a statement, confirmed that he is considering a 2024 Senate bid against appointed U.S. Sen. Pete Ricketts, R-Neb.

“I have had a lot of people both within Nebraska and Republicans involved in national politics reach out, encouraging me to run for the United States Senate in 2024,” Herbster said. “I am in the fortunate position right now where I have several different options available for my political future. The Senate in 2024 is certainly one of those options.” 

Herbster also is considering whether to take on Pillen again in 2026 for governor.

In his statement, Herbster said he has not yet made a decision and has “no pending announcement.”

Herbster’s statement, published first Wednesday in The Dispatch, did not specify which Senate seat he is considering. Both Ricketts and two-term U.S. Sen. Deb Fischer, R-Neb., are up for election in 2024. But a Herbster staffer this week confirmed Herbster has no interest in challenging Fischer. Ricketts and his political team declined to comment.

One Republican candidate has already announced a Senate bid in 2024, former U.S. House candidate John Glen Weaver, though he did not say which race. He clarified this week that he is running against Ricketts.

If Herbster runs, this would be his third attempt at winning a statewide race.

Herbster dropped out of the governor’s race in 2013, citing family health concerns. He later spent millions funding an unsuccessful bid by former State Sen. Beau McCoy against Ricketts in the Republican governor’s primary.

U.S. Sen. Deb Fischer interviews with Nebraska Public Media’s Bill Kelly in Lincoln on June 2. (Aaron Sanderford/Nebraska Examiner)

In 2020, Herbster and Ricketts were on opposite sides of an intra-party fight after  Ricketts appointed Julie Slama to a southeast Nebraska legislative seat in Herbster’s district. 

Ricketts backed Slama while Herbster backed then-Nebraska City realtor Janet Palmtag. Slama won. Herbster donated to Slama’s campaign after the general election.

In the 2022 race for governor, Ricketts, who was term limited, backed Pillen, including funding outside ads that criticized Herbster and State Sen. Brett Lindstrom of Omaha.

During the race, Slama was one of eight women who came forward to the Examiner saying Herbster had groped them at various political or pageant events. Herbster denied the allegations and, in public comments after the story was published, he accused Ricketts of being behind a political conspiracy involving the women’s accounts, which Ricketts denied. 

Herbster and Slama sued each other in the aftermath, but both eventually agreed to drop their lawsuits. Neither would acknowledge a settlement or terms.  

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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.