LINCOLN, Neb. (Nebraska Examiner) — A political rift between Gov. Pete Ricketts and Lt. Gov. Mike Foley broke into the open Tuesday after Foley told Ricketts he backs Charles Herbster for governor.
The lieutenant governor’s decision appears to have motivated Ricketts to speak out more forcefully against Herbster. He said Herbster would be “a terrible governor.”
Ricketts, who has endorsed and campaigned for University of Nebraska Regent Jim Pillen, said he told Foley that he was making a mistake and that he should rethink his choice.
“I was very disappointed with the lieutenant governor’s choice,” Ricketts told the Nebraska Examiner. “I think it’s incredibly poor judgment on his part.”
The Herbster campaign plans to announce Foley’s endorsement during a press conference later Tuesday at the Capitol, the Examiner has learned. The campaign has promised a “HUGE announcement.”
The Herbster campaign declined to comment until the announcement.
Foley’s endorsement could carry added weight with GOP voters who oppose abortion. Some hold Foley in high regard from his work as a state senator. He was elected twice as state auditor.
It’s the second time Ricketts and Foley have disagreed on a major race this cycle. Ricketts endorsed State Sen. Mike Flood of Norfolk in Nebraska’s 1st Congressional District race. Foley endorsed nine-term U.S. Rep. Jeff Fortenberry, R-Neb. The congressman faces a federal trial this week on charges he lied to federal investigators about certain campaign contributions.
Ricketts on Tuesday ramped up his criticism of Herbster. He reiterated his frustration that the Conklin Co. CEO bases his highest-paying jobs in Missouri and Minnesota.
Ricketts said governors have to be able to promote their states to business owners in other states. But Herbster, he said, will lack credibility with businesses he tries to recruit to Nebraska.
“Any company that comes here will say, ‘Well, why should I believe you?’” Ricketts said. “You put your own jobs in a different state, and actually multiple different states.”
The governor also criticized Herbster’s late payment of property taxes. Herbster paid his personal and business property taxes late nearly 600 times, as KMTV reported last year.
Herbster told KMTV he was trying to keep his company afloat. But he gave millions of dollars in political donations at the time when he owed the state thousands of dollars in property taxes.
The governor said Herbster acts as if one set of rules applies to him and another set to the rest of Nebraskans. Herbster is largely self-funding his campaign with more than $5 million.
“Nobody believes Charles Herbster doesn’t have the money,” Ricketts said. “He’s got the money. He’s rich. He can afford to pay his property taxes. He should do that, because when you don’t pay your property taxes, that puts more burden on everybody else who is following the law.”
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