A Republican senator in Nebraska said Thursday that she had been groped three years ago by a fellow Republican who is now a leading candidate in the party’s primary for governor next month.
The candidate, Charles Herbster, denied the allegations made by state senator Julie Slama, calling them “100 percent false.”
Ms. Slama made her statement after The Nebraska Examiner published an article about the alleged incident, which she said occurred at a Republican party dinner in Douglas County in April 2019.
“Today’s report from the Nebraska Examiner about Charles Herbster sexually assaulting me in 2019, when I was 22 years old, is true,” said Ms. Slama, adding that she “prayed that I would never have to go through this trauma again.” experience.”
She said that when the news outlet asked her what happened, “I wouldn’t deny the truth.” Ms Slama’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment. In February, she referred to the alleged assault during a speech on the floor of the legislature, although she did not name Mr Herbster at the time.
Mr Herbster, owner of a large farm and was endorsed by former President Donald J. Trump ahead of the May 10 primaries, said in: a statement that the charges were “a ridiculous, baseless dirty political ploy” carried out by his political opponents in the state, including Governor Pete Ricketts, also a Republican.
“I have employed hundreds of people for over 30 years,” said Mr. Herbster. “I have respected and empowered women to run my business, my farm, and now my campaign. My integrity has NEVER been tested in this way.” He later told a local radio station, “They did it with Brett Kavanaugh. They sure did it with Donald J. Trump and now they’re trying to do it with Charles W. Herbster.”
Mr Herbster’s campaign manager, Ellen Keast, has a separate… statement who “unequivocally” denied the allegations and went on to accuse Mr Ricketts of backing the story. Ms. Keast notes that Mr. Ricketts and Ms. Slama have political ties; she worked as a press secretary on his campaign for governor in 2018 before appointing her to the legislature the following year.
Asked to comment, Mr Ricketts said in an interview: “Well, I would read the article. I have rarely seen an article on this subject so extensively corroborated by witnesses.” Referring to Ms Slama’s decision to speak publicly about the alleged incident, he said: “It’s probably one of the most courageous things I’ve ever seen.”
Mr Ricketts said Mr Herbster should “seek help and step down from his campaign.”
A spokeswoman for Mr Ricketts later said the governor was not aware of the allegations until the article was published.
Herbster and the Douglas County Republican Party did not immediately respond to reports on Thursday.
According to the article, Ms. Slama, who was appointed to the legislature in January 2019, was in a crowded ballroom at the Douglas County Republican Party’s annual Elephant Remembers dinner in April when she walked past Mr. Herbster. The news station reported that he then “raised her skirt and touched her inappropriately without her permission”.
On Thursday afternoon, after a prominent supporter of Mr. Herbster was… quoted on social media when asked what Ms. Slama was wearing on the night of the Republican dinner, she said… Posted a photo on Twitter with the message: “I wore this dress when I was sexually assaulted.”
In her February address, Ms. Slama said: “When I first entered politics in Nebraska at age 22, I was groped at a political event by someone who was not a member of this body, and not a current or former office holder. ”
She cited other instances of being touched or spoken to inappropriately. Ms Slama said she often didn’t speak out about such experiences because “as a young woman you worry that this will be the thing that defines you.”
The investigator reported that in addition to Ms Slama, six other women said Mr Herbster had touched them inappropriately at various 2017 events, and a seventh said he had kissed her forcibly. The women were not identified in the article and DailyExpertNews was unable to contact them to independently confirm their allegations.
Founded in January, the Nebraska Examiner describes itself as a nonprofit, impartial newsroom and part of a national group that supports local news coverage.
Mr. Herbster is one of nine Republicans seeking the replacement of Mr. Ricketts, who is serving a limited term. Mr Herbster’s campaign has so far spent more than $4 million, the most of all candidates, although Jim Pillen, a veterinarian who owns a large family farm and was supported by Mr. Ricketts and Mrs. Slama, paid a similar amount in his campaign has war chest.
Mr. Herbster’s campaign has spent $4.8 million on advertising so far, compared to nearly $3.7 million spent by Mr. Pillen’s campaign, according to Ad Impact, a media tracking company.
In the 2016 election, Mr. Trump’s campaign appointed Mr. Herbster, the chief executive of the Conklin Company, to its Agriculture and Rural Advisory Committee, along with dozens of other supporters. After Mr. Trump approved Mr. Herbster as governor, Mr. Ricketts acknowledged that he had asked the former president to “stay out of the race.”
Kirsten Noyes research contributed.