nebraska governor race 2022

The 2022 Nebraska governor race featured an open seat contest to succeed term-limited Republican Governor Pete Ricketts. Nebraska has voted Republican in every presidential election since 1964 and has had a GOP trifecta since 2015, but Democrats saw an opportunity to potentially flip the governorship amid a national environment forecasted to favor their party.

The race attracted several Republican candidates along with a smaller Democratic field. Both primaries took place on May 10, 2022, setting the stage for a general election matchup between Republican Jim Pillen and Democrat Carol Blood. As expected in the red state, Pillen emerged victorious on November 8 while Republicans maintained their trifecta control of Nebraska’s state government.

Candidates

Republican Candidates

The Republican primary field consisted of 9 candidates, including:

  • Jim Pillen, University of Nebraska Regent
  • Charles Herbster, businessman and rancher
  • Brett Lindstrom, state senator
  • Theresa Thibodeau, former state senator
  • Breland Ridenour, information technology manager
  • Michael Connely, retired engineer
  • Donna Carpenter, business owner
  • Lela McNinch, retired teacher
  • Troy Wentz, software developer

Pillen had the endorsement of outgoing Governor Ricketts while Herbster was backed by former President Donald Trump. Lindstrom positioned himself as more of a moderate compared to the conservative Pillen and Herbster.

Democratic Candidates

The Democratic primary came down to two candidates:

  • Carol Blood, state senator
  • Roy Harris, computer scientist
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Blood was considered the favorite due to her legislative experience and Harris’ low-profile campaign. She ran on traditional Democratic issues like education, healthcare, and workers’ rights.

Third Party Candidates

Libertarian Scott Zimmerman and Legal Marijuana Now candidate Robert Borer were also on the general election ballot.

Primary Elections

Republican Primary

The Republican primary was very competitive, with the top three candidates separated by less than 10 percentage points. Pillen ultimately came out on top with 33.9% of the vote, edging Herbster’s 29.9% and Lindstrom’s 26.1%. Ricketts’ endorsement proved decisive for Pillen against the Trump-backed Herbster. The rest of the field was in single digits.

Democratic Primary

As expected, Carol Blood easily dispatched the lesser-known Harris in the Democratic primary, winning 88.7% of the vote. This set up a Ricketts-endorsed Republican against a progressive Democrat for the general election.

Third Party Primaries

Zimmerman was unopposed for the Libertarian nomination while Borer secured a spot on the general election ballot through an independent write-in campaign after failing to qualify for the primary.

General Election Campaign

Key Issues

  • The economy: Pillen campaigned on cutting taxes and regulations to boost the economy. Blood pushed infrastructure investments, affordable housing, and other kitchen table economic issues.
  • Abortion: Pillen touted his anti-abortion credentials after Nebraska passed an abortion ban earlier in 2022. Blood vowed to work to restore abortion rights.
  • Education: Blood advocated increased education funding, smaller class sizes, and higher teacher pay. Pillen focused more on giving parents school choice options.

Endorsements

  • Pillen had the backing of Ricketts and the state GOP establishment. He also got support from former Vice President Mike Pence.
  • Blood had endorsements from state and national teachers unions along with Emily’s List, an organization supporting pro-choice Democratic women.
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Polling

Consistent with Nebraska’s Republican lean, Pillen led comfortably in all polls during the general election campaign. Most surveys showed him ahead by 15-25 points over Blood.

Campaign Fundraising

Pillen significantly outraised and outspent Blood, bringing in over $11 million compared to $2.5 million for Blood. His financial advantage reflected the broader Republican support in the state.

General Election Results

Governor Race

Jim Pillen defeated Carol Blood by a 59.2% to 36% margin. The nearly 23-point win was right in line with pre-election polls and expectations. Pillen held the seat for Republicans and maintained the GOP’s trifecta control of Nebraska’s state government.

Lieutenant Governor Race

Republican lieutenant governor nominee Joe Kelly also won easily, running alongside Pillen on the same percentage margin. Kelly succeeded Republican Lt. Governor Mike Foley, keeping the position in GOP hands as well.

Analysis and Implications

State Partisan Control

By electing Pillen and Kelly, Nebraska voters kept the governorship and lieutenant governorship in Republican control. The GOP also held supermajority control of the unicameral legislature. This represented a continuation of unified one-party rule in the state.

National Political Context

The Nebraska governor outcome aligns with the state’s longtime Republican leanings in federal elections. However, it diverges from the national environment in 2022 which was more favorable for Democrats. This illustrates the limitations of national waves in overwhelmingly partisan states.

Conclusion

The open seat 2022 Nebraska governor election drew significant interest but ultimately resulted in a predictable GOP win. Jim Pillen’s victory over Carol Blood allowed Republicans to maintain trifecta control going into the 2024 elections. While Democrats fell short, Blood’s 36% of the vote potentially suggests some competitiveness in future cycles as Nebraska’s suburbs grow and diversify. The 2022 results affirm Nebraska’s solid red state status but the evolution of Omaha and Lincoln bear watching ahead of 2026 and beyond.

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FAQs

Q: Who won the 2022 Nebraska governor election?

A: Republican Jim Pillen defeated Democrat Carol Blood to win the open seat contest.

Q: What was the margin of victory?

A: Pillen won by 23 points, 59.2% to 36% over Blood.

Q: Who did Pillen and Blood defeat in their primaries?

A: Pillen won a competitive 9-way GOP primary, edging out Charles Herbster and Brett Lindstrom among others. Blood easily defeated Roy Harris in the Democratic primary.

Q: What role did outgoing Governor Ricketts play?

A: Ricketts endorsed Pillen and campaigned vigorously on his behalf, helping propel him to victory in the Republican primary.

Q: Did the Nebraska governor election affect partisan control?

A: No, the GOP retained their trifecta hold on the governorship and legislature with Pillen’s win.

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