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Republican Governor Pete Ricketts of Nebraska faces nine Republican primary challengers this year ahead of the gubernatorial election in the state. The term-limited governor is calling for at least one of those challengers, Charles Herbster, to drop out of the race amid allegations of sexual misconduct that surfaced last Thursday.
An April 14 expose in the Nebraska Examiner detailed allegations that the Conklin Co. CEO groped eight different women while attending various political functions and fundraising dinners over a period of several years.
The outlet reported that “all the incidents occurred between 2017 and this year” and “the women ranged in age from their late teens to mid-20s at the time of the incidents.”
“Herbster is saying the Republican establishment somehow created a conspiracy, that these eight women are somehow behind, to accuse him of sexual assault and groping them and so forth,” Ricketts told reporters on Monday, citing the Examiner story.
“And I would say read the article because that article is one of the most well-researched, corroborated articles I’ve ever seen on this topic,” he advised.
“I think he needs to apologize to the women, then I think he should seek help, then he should step out of the race,” he suggested.
Of the eight women who spoke to the Examiner, all but one preferred to remain anonymous. Republican State Sen. Julie Slama spoke candidly with reporters and made her allegations public. She recalled that during a 2009 event, Herbster reached up her skirt without her consent as she walked by him and touched her inappropriately. “The incident happened in the middle of a crowded ballroom at the Douglas County Republican Party’s annual Elephant Remembers dinner,” wrote the outlet.
One woman at the event witnessed the particular instance with Slama, and two others reported seeing Herbster grope another woman on her buttocks at the same gathering, according to the report.
Six women told the Examiner they can recall many instances of aggressive groping that could not be confused with casual friendliness when they said hello or goodbye to Herbster or posed in photographs with the CEO. They said he would grab their buttocks outside of their clothing and would routinely pull women into him for an embrace when they were merely shaking his hand.
One of the seven anonymous women said Herbster trapped her in a secluded area during an event and forcibly kissed her.
Herbster’s campaign manager, Ellen Keast, said the candidate denied the women’s allegations “unequivocally” in a statement released last Wednesday. She contended “this is a political hit-piece built on 100% false and baseless claims” and blamed the “political establishment” for “smearing and trying to destroy him with lies.”
“Charles W. Herbster has a lifetime record of empowering women to lead,” Keast said in her statement. “His company, farm, and campaign are all run by women. Despite leading hundreds of employees, not once has his reputation been attacked in this disgusting manner.”
One of the unnamed accusers said, “Being a conservative Republican woman in politics, you just expect to be treated with respect. To be treated in that way in a public event, in front of everyone, just to prove, I believe, that he could get away with it, and not having recourse, it’s terrifying.”
“I’m scared for any young women that he would be dealing with in the future. Don’t send your daughters to work for this guy,” she warned.
Complicating matters for Herbster – at least in the eyes of some – is that former President Trump endorsed him to replace Ricketts, causing the latter to symbolically break with the president at the time.
“While I agree with President Trump on many things, I strongly disagree that Charles Herbster is qualified to be our next governor,” the governor said in October of last year.
Rickett’s latest comments came during a presser addressing the allegations against Herbster.
Gov. Pete Ricketts (R-NE) says Charles Herbster, GOP candidate for governor, should “seek help” and drop out after allegations of groping by 8 women.
When asked if that logic applies to Donald Trump and his comments on the Access Hollywood tape, he says “it’s very different.” pic.twitter.com/YLv8lZPIej
— Heartland Signal (@HeartlandSignal) April 18, 2022
According to the Examiner, Nebraska state law dictates that touching a person inappropriately without consent on the outside of their clothes constitutes third-degree sexual assault. If an injury is sustained, it’s considered second-degree sex assault, and any penetration constitutes first-degree sexual assault.
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