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Pillen has raised $5.4 million for expensive GOP governor contest
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Pillen has raised $5.4 million for expensive GOP governor contest

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Republican gubernatorial candidate Jim Pillen already has raised $5.4 million in contributions to his campaign, a figure that dwarfs the amount of money that previous Republican candidates for governor reported in their initial campaign finance reports.

Pillen had cash on hand for his campaign totaling $4.1 million moving into 2022.

His figures include 18 donors contributing $100,000 to the Columbus pork producer, who is a member of the University of Nebraska Board of Regents.

The Pillen numbers compare with about $1.4 million raised by Gov. Pete Ricketts in 2013 as he prepared for his initial gubernatorial race eight years ago.

Pillen counts 1,328 Nebraska contributors and has contributed $1 million of his own money to his campaign.

The multi-candidate Republican gubernatorial primary contest appears likely to feature a costly battle with Pillen and Charles Herbster, a Falls City cattle producer, leading the campaign finance charts.

The Pillen campaign's estimate of Herbster expenditures thus far approaches $3 million, with nearly $1.5 million in television and radio outlays already in the books. 

Herbster, who was agricultural adviser to former President Donald Trump, has received Trump's endorsement. Pillen is expected to garner Ricketts' endorsement, but the governor has been silent so far.

The strong early fundraising success of Pillen reflects his lifetime of "building relationships," Kenny Zoeller, Pillen's campaign manager, said Monday.

"But we're not taking anything for granted. Jim is building relationships and creating relationships.

"Right now, we feel it's either Pillen or Herbster," he said.

The Republican contest also includes Sen. Brett Lindstrom of Omaha and former Sen. Theresa Thibodeau of Omaha, along with a number of other announced candidates. Michael Connely of York, Donna Nicole Carpenter of Lincoln and Lela McNinch of Lincoln have filed with the secretary of state. 

Former Gov. Dave Heineman considered entering the race, but ultimately decided to remain in private life in Fremont.

"We're not done fundraising," Pillen campaign consultant Jessica Flanagain said during a joint interview with Zoeller.

"We have enough money to communicate his message," she said, "and it's important that it's coming from other Nebraskans."

Pillen has campaigned in 85 of Nebraska's 93 counties thus far.

Reach the writer at 402-473-7248 or dwalton@journalstar.com.

On Twitter @LJSdon

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