Former President Donald Trump’s influence within the Republican Party will again be up for election Tuesday as Republican voters head to the polls in Nebraska and West Virginia.
In Nebraska, Trump has backed gubernatorial candidate Charles Herbster, who is 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 seat in the House due to population decline.
NEBRASKA: Former President Donald Trump (right) shakes hands with his Nebraska gubernatorial nominee Charles Herbster (left) as he faces 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 compete to represent the newly formed 2nd congressional district
In both cases, Trump’s election contradicted the approval of the state governors.
Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts, unable to run for re-election due to term limits, has campaigned for Jim Pillen, a University of Nebraska regent who is leading a major hog operation in the state.
Also among the frontrunners in the crowded GOP gubernatorial primary is state senator Brett Lindstrom — who could benefit from Pillen and Herbster slugging each other.
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 shared similar stories of being fondled or fondled by the politician.
Republican Senator Julie Slama told the newspaper that in 2019, without her consent, Herbster pulled up her skirt and touched her inappropriately.
The incident happened in public — in a crowded ballroom at the Doublas County Republican Party’s annual Elephant Remembers Dinner, she said.
Another participant saw Herbster grabbing Slama’s skirt and reported it to the examiner.
That witness and two others saw the GOP hopeful grope another young woman’s buttocks at the same dinner.
A total of six women — including the woman who saw eyewitnesses having her buttocks groped — told the investigator that Herbster inappropriately touched them when they greeted or said goodbye to him or posed for photos.
The woman said that Herbster would grab her ass, outside of her clothes. The woman also told the newspaper that she was grabbed by the politician – and didn’t feel it was an accidental abrasion.
A seventh woman told the examiner that Herbster cornered her and forcefully kissed her.
The incidents happened either at political events or beauty pageants and between 2017 and this year. The ages of the women ranged from their late teens to mid-20s, the newspaper said.
Herbster’s campaign manager, Ellen Keast, said the candidate “unequivocally” denied the women’s allegations.
“This is a political hit that is 100 percent based on false and unsubstantiated claims,” Keast said, blaming the “political establishment” for “slandering and destroying it with lies.”
Trump defended Herbster at Sunday night’s rally earlier this month.
“He was slandered. He was badly defamed and it’s a shame,” Trump said. “That’s why I came here. I defend people when I know they are good.’
But West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice said in recent days that Trump “made a mistake” in voting for Mooney over McKinley in the West Virginia congressional race.
“Now in no way do I have a dog fighting Alex Mooney,” Justice said Thursday, sitting next to his own dog, Babydog. “But I can tell you that I was close to the Trump family and friends with Trump. From time to time he can make a mistake. And this time he made a mistake.”
“This man did something that probably upset the President when he voted for the infrastructure bill,” Justice said of McKinley. “Just think about it – what courage did it take to do it? Isn’t that what we need in West Virginia after all? 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 stop doing it – all the time. I’ve spoken to Alex Mooney since I took office.’
Democratic Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia also supported McKinley.
McKinley nicknamed Mooney “Maryland Mooney” because Mooney was a member of the Maryland state legislature for 12 years before running for office in nearby West Virginia.
But ahead of Tuesday’s primary, West Virginia voters appeared to be following Trump’s lead, with a MetroNews poll of West Virginia showing Mooney had a 12-point lead over McKinley.
Mooney appeared at Trump’s rally in Greensburg, Pennsylvania on Friday night and called McKinley a “total RINO.”
“In order for our party to be successful, we need to eliminate these RINOs in the primaries,” Mooney said.
Mooney was among 147 Republicans who voted on Jan. 6 to run in the 2020 presidential election, while McKinley did not.
A week ago, Trump’s Ohio Senate nominee – backwoods elegy writer JD Vance – beat his Republican rivals in a packed primary, giving the former president an early boost.