Former President Donald Trump’s clout within the Republican Party will again be on the ballot Tuesday as Republican voters head to the polls in Nebraska and West Virginia.
In Nebraska, Trump has backed gubernatorial candidate Charles Herbster, who has been accused of groping at least eight women – allegations he denies.
In West Virginia, Trump put his weight behind GOP Rep. Alex Mooney, who is running against GOP Rep. David McKinley to represent the newly-formed 2nd Congressional District, after the state lost a House seat due to the population shrinking.
NEBRASKA: Former President Donald Trump (right) shakes the hand of his chosen Nebraska gubernatorial candidate Charles Herbster (left), who is facing a bevy of groping allegations
WEST VIRGINIA: Former President Donald Trump has endorsed Rep. Alex Mooney in a Republican primary against Rep. David McKinley, as the two incumbents go head-to-head to represent the newly-formed 2nd Congressional District
In both cases, Trump’s picks have gone against the endorsement of the governors of the states.
Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts, who can’t run for re-election due to term limits, has put his weight behind Jim Pillen, a University of Nebraska regent who runs a large hog operation in the state.
Also among the top-tier candidates in the crowded GOP gubernatorial primary is state Sen. Brett Lindstrom – who could benefit from Pillen and Herbster going after one another.
On May 1, Trump appeared in Nebraska to officially endorse Herbster.
Trump initially announced the rally just five days after the Nebraska Examiner reported that eight women have similar stories about being groped or fondled by the politician.
Republican state Sen. Julie Slama told the paper that in 2019 Herbster reached up her skirt, without her consent, and touched her inappropriately.
The incident happened in public – in a crowded ballrom at the Doublas County Republican Party’s annual Elephant Remembers dinner, she said.
Another attendee saw Herbster reach up Slama’s skirt and reported it to the Examiner.
That witness and two additional ones saw the GOP hopeful grope another young woman in the buttocks at the same dinner.
Overall, six women – including the woman eyewitnesses saw get groped in the buttocks – told the Examiner that Herbster touched them inappropriately when they were saying hello or goodbye to him, or were posing for photos.
The woman said that Herbster would grab them on their butts, outside of their clothes. The woman also told the newspaper that they were grabbed by the politician – and didn’t feel like it was an unintentional graze.
A seventh woman told the Examiner Herbster cornered her and kissed her forcibly.
The incidents happened at either political events or beauty pageants and between 2017 and this year. The women’s ages ranged from in their late teens to mid-20s, the paper said.
Herbster’s Campaign Manager Ellen Keast said the candidate denied the women’s allegations ‘unequivocally,’
‘This is a political hit-piece built on 100 per cent false and baseless claims,’ Keast said, blaming the ‘political establishment’ for ‘smearing and trying to destroy him with lies.’
Trump defended Herbster at the Sunday night rally earlier this month.
‘He’s been maligned. He’s been badly maligned and it’s a shame,’ Trump said. ‘That’s why I came out here. I defend people when I know they’re good.’
But West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice said in recent days that Trump ‘made a mistake’ by choosing Mooney over McKinley in the West Virginia Congressional race.
‘Now I don’t have a dog in the fight against Alex Mooney in any way,’ Justice said on Thursday, sitting alongside his own dog, Babydog. ‘But I can tell you I have been close with the Trump family, and I am friends with Trump. From time to time, he can make a mistake. And this time, he has made a mistake.’
‘This man did something that probably agitated the president when he voted for the infrastructure bill,’ Justice said of McKinley. ‘Just think about it – what kind of guts did it take to do it? At the end of the day, don’t we in West Virginia need that? Are you kidding me?’
Justice also characterized McKinley as a harder worker than Mooney.
‘He drives me crazy with stuff all the time. He won’t quit doing it – all the time. I’ve talked to Alex Mooney since I’ve been in office one time.’
Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia also endorsed McKinley.
McKinley has nicknamed Mooney ‘Maryland Mooney,’ as Mooney was a member of the Maryland state legislature for 12 years before running for office in nearby West Virginia.
But in the run-up to Tuesday’s primary, West Virginia voters seemed to be following Trump lead, with a MetroNews West Virginia Poll showing Mooney with a 12-point lead over McKinley.
Mooney appeared at Trump’s rally Friday night in Greensburg, Pennsylvania and called McKinley a ‘total RINO.’
‘In order for our party to be successful, we need to take these RINOs out in the primaries,’ Mooney said.
Mooney was among the 147 Republicans who voted to contest the 2020 presidential election on January 6, while McKinley was not.
A week ago, Trump’s chosen candidate in Ohio for the U.S. Senate – Hillbilly Elegy author J.D. Vance – beat his Republican rivals in a packed primary, giving the former president some early momentum.