Trump-Backed Candidate for Governor, Who's Accused of Groping Multiple Women, Loses Election in Nebraska 

Republican Charles Herbster has faced multiple allegations of groping in recent months

Nebraska candidate for governor Charles Herbster greets guests before the start of a rally with former President Donald Trump on May 01, 2022 in Greenwood, Nebraska.
Charles Herbster. Photo: Scott Olson/Getty

Republican Charles Herbster — who in recent weeks has faced several allegations of groping women, but still secured the endorsement of former President Donald Trump — lost Nebraska's Republican primary for governor on Tuesday.

While he was leading in several polls earlier in the race, Herbster's campaign was in recent weeks besieged by allegations that he had groped several women at political events and elsewhere. Herbster has denied the claims.

In the end, University of Nebraska Regent Jim Pillen won the state's Republican nomination for governor, the Associated Press reports.

In April, eight women — including a Republican state senator — told The Nebraska Examiner that Herbster, then a leading contender in the GOP primary race, had touched them inappropriately or forcibly kissed them at public events.

One, Republican state Sen. Julie Slama, told the outlet that, at a 2019 Republican Party dinner, Herbster reached up her skirt and touched her as she walked by him. Another person who attended the event backed up Slama's story, describing it similarly.

Weeks later, a second woman publicly identified herself as an alleged victim of Herbster. Elizabeth Todsen, a former state chair of the College Republicans, told the Examiner that she was 23 years old when she attended the same 2019 fundraiser, held for the local Republican party.

While at the dinner, Todsen said Herbster greeted those seated at her table, shaking hands with the men but pulling her into what she called "an aggressive" embrace.

"It was more than a hug," Todsen told the outlet. "His hand went to my butt. It was a grab. At that point, I tried to push away, but I couldn't. It was like he knew that I couldn't say anything."

Herbster's campaign disputed the accounts, with a spokesperson telling the Examiner: "We are going to stick by our statement that Charles 100 percent denies these allegations."

The politician himself has suggested on social media that the claims — six of which the Examiner corroborated with at least one eyewitness — are the result of the "the establishment machine within my own party."

He called the women's stories "100% false," according to The Omama World-Herald. (Herbster has not responded to PEOPLE's request for clarification or further comment.)

Former President Trump doubled down on his endorsement of the candidate, despite the allegations. He also appeared at a recent rally for Herbster, saying the Republican had been "badly maligned and it's a shame."

"It would have been easy for me to say, 'I'm not gonna come,' " Trump, who himself has been accused of sexual assault in the past (which he also denies), told the crowd at the Nebraska rally. "I defend my people when I know they're good."

While Trump's endorsement has helped candidates elsewhere, it wasn't enough for Herbster, who told a crowd of supporters in his concession speech Tuesday that he was at the White House with the Trump family in 2020 when it became clear that Trump had lost that race. "So I do know how it feels not to be the victor," Herbster said.

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