Ricketts says he’s still good with Trump despite differences in governors’ races

By: - May 23, 2022 1:05 pm

Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts speaks to President Donald Trump during a meeting on trade with governors and members of Congress at the White House on April 12, 2018, in Washington, DC. (Chris Kleponis – Pool/Getty Images)

LINCOLN — Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts said Monday he can still pick up the phone and chat with former President Donald Trump, despite their differences in who should win Republican primaries for governor.

On Saturday, Ricketts was in Georgia campaigning for incumbent Gov. Brian Kemp, who has been attacked by Trump for failing to help overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election.

Called a RINO

Trump, during a press conference last week, called Ricketts a “RINO” (Republican in Name Only) for backing Kemp. The former president endorsed former U.S. Sen. David Perdue in that race, although Trump has reportedly cooled recently on his backing.

The Georgia campaigning came after a Ricketts-backed candidate, University of Nebraska Regent Jim Pillen, won the GOP primary in Nebraska over Trump’s endorsed candidate, Falls City businessman Charles Herbster.

But in comments Monday, following a press conference on a different subject, Ricketts waved off any suggestion of a permanent rift with Trump.

‘We back different candidates’

“I agree with many of the policies of the former president. We just back different candidates,” the Nebraska governor said. He added that in Texas and Arizona, the two are backing the same candidates.

Ricketts, who is co-chair of the Republican Governor’s Association, said that group’s policy has always been to support incumbents for re-election.

“Brian Kemp deserves re-election. He’s done a fantastic job as governor of Georgia,” he said.

“Our relationship is fine. I certainly feel that I can pick up the phone and call him, like I did last summer,” Ricketts said of Trump.

“In contested primaries, people are going to pick different candidates,” he said.

Called a year ago

Ricketts called Trump last year to request that he stay out of the Nebraska GOP primary for governor and not endorse anyone. Trump, though, eventually endorsed Herbster, with whom he’d had a long relationship.

The Ricketts family has had an on-and-off association with Trump. During the 2016 primary, the governor’s parents, Joe and Marlene Ricketts, were major donors to a super PAC devoted to defeating Trump. But later, the family got behind Trump, and Gov. Ricketts appeared at a rally in support of him.

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Paul Hammel
Paul Hammel

Senior Reporter Paul Hammel has covered the Nebraska state government and the state for decades. Previously with the Omaha World-Herald, Lincoln Journal Star and Omaha Sun, he is a member of the Omaha Press Club's Hall of Fame. He grows hops, brews homemade beer, plays bass guitar and basically loves traveling and writing about the state. A native of Ralston, Nebraska, he is vice president of the John G. Neihardt Foundation.