LINCOLN, Neb. (KMTV) — Nebraska gubernatorial candidate Jim Pillen on Tuesday picked Joe Kelly, one of the state’s top prosecutors, as his running mate.
Kelly, who leads the Criminal Bureau for the Nebraska Attorney General’s Office, served as U.S. attorney for Nebraska from 2018 to 2021 and Lancaster County attorney from 2011 to 2018.
Kelly described his decision to join the team as a no-doubter. He’s known Pillen since their days as students at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, where Pillen is now a regent.
“Jim is somebody who I’ve known for 40 years … and he’s just a perfect fit for the job,” Kelly said. “A job-creating veterinarian, ag producer, built a large organization.”
Pillen is in a close fight for the Republican nomination for governor with Conklin Co. CEO Charles Herbster and State Sen. Brett Lindstrom of Omaha. Former State Sen. Theresa Thibodeau is the clear leader of the next rung of GOP candidates.
Kelly said he hopes to approach the chance to be lieutenant governor like a prosecutor: “Take the facts as they are, don’t embellish and up-persuade from the point.”
Kelly said Nebraskans are meeting Pillen in more than 300 events the Republican candidate is holding across the state. They are getting to know the real Pillen, not the man on TV ads, he said.
“He is easygoing,” Kelly said of Pillen. “He’s loyal to his friends and family. He cares deeply about his community. He’s got a very good sense of humor. He can laugh at himself.”
Kelly said he and Pillen share a passion for recruiting and retaining young people and graduates of traditional colleges, community colleges and trade schools to raise their families here.
“Jim … listens to people, understands what they’re saying about what they want from their jobs and from their community, and he can fit them in with Nebraska,” Kelly said.
The Pillen team highlighted Kelly’s 25 years of work as a prosecutor, trial attorney and government administrator.
“Joe Kelly has dedicated his career to enforcing our laws, pursuing justice, and serving the people of Nebraska,” Pillen said in a statement. “As his friend for over 40 years, I know Joe to be a leader of the highest integrity who gets results and always puts service before self.”
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