OMAHA — At Saturday’s Second Annual Nebraska Freedom Festival, a group seeking to magnify Nebraska’s populist right will not be able to demonstrate the kind of Republican cohesion that its organizers had intended to communicate.
The Nebraska Freedom Coalition, which is hosting the event, intended for four of the leading Republican contenders for governor to appear at the event, except Jim Pillen, who ultimately won the election.
Nebraska Freedom Festival
When: Saturday. Gates open at 2 p.m. Speakers start at 4 p.m.
Where: Sarpy County Fairgrounds
Cost: $25 per adult, $20 for students, available here.
National conservative personalities Alex Stein, who posts videos of himself trolling Democrats on Capitol Hill and elsewhere; rapper Nick Nittoli; musician Bryson Gray; and Ali Alexander, who helped organize “Stop the Steal” rallies in the lead-up to January 6, 2021, in Washington, D.C., before the United States Capitol was stormed. Stein, Nittoli, Gray, and Alexander are all known for their anti-Democratic rhetoric. Alexander helped organize the “Stop the Steal” rallies
The following day, on Thursday, Charles Herbster conveyed to the group that he would not be there after all. The Freedom Coalition has been a longstanding admirer of Herbster, who came in second place behind Pillen. As a result, the organization has spent the better part of the past several weeks publicizing Herbster’s presence online.
Members of the Freedom Coalition include both libertarian Republicans and those who are interested in providing more outspoken support for Donald Trump, who was previously in office. The organization devoted the most of its time during the Republican primary campaign promoting Herbster, who had received Trump’s endorsement. The team of Governor Pete Ricketts was removed from their position as leaders of the Nebraska Republican Party with the assistance of members of the coalition.
During the primary election, leaders of the coalition had voiced their disapproval of Pillen, but they have now asked him to speak at their gathering. However, Pillen has been clear with the group for some time now that he would not be present. The campaign team for the University of Nebraska regent stated that Pillen was unable to make the event due to a schedule problem.
A member of Herbster’s staff who could be reached on Friday attributed the company’s inability to participate on Saturday to “miscommunications in the preparation process.” Before the post was removed on Thursday, Herbster had been using his Facebook page to spread the word about the event.
The staff member stated that he would not “share private talks concerning the event preparation and Charles’ involvement,” thus he declined to provide any details about the miscommunications that occurred. He stated that Herbster was looking forward to getting together with his “Patriot buddies” again in the near future.
“We wish them a safe event and great success,” said Rod Edwards, who is now overseeing a new political action committee, Nebraska First, which Herbster launched Thursday to boost conservative candidates.
Patrick Peterson, the executive director of the Freedom Coalition, expressed his “disappointment that Charles can’t attend,” and he also expressed his disappointment with the timing of Herbster’s decision. Peterson said he was upset that Herbster made his choice.
Peterson refused to provide an explanation as to why Herbster told them he would not be going, but he did remark that Herbster “couldn’t seem to give up the attention for himself to support other candidates, especially those running down ballot.”
According to Peterson, the purpose of the gathering was to assist candidates running in contests with less public attention, such as those for the State Board of Education, school boards, county sheriffs, and county boards in eastern Nebraska.
Peterson has also recently learned that State Senator Brett Lindstrom, who came in third place in the battle for the Republican nomination for governor, would not be speaking.
According to Lindstrom, the event organizers urged him to participate in order to demonstrate togetherness, therefore he made the decision to go.
He said that he had informed the organization that the new position he had in the private sector makes it more difficult for him to appear at political gatherings. He claimed that he was taken aback to see that he had been listed as a speaker on the online festival calendar.
Theresa Thibodeau, a former state senator from Omaha who came in fourth place in the election for governor, is the only one of the four candidates for governor who plans to participate in the debate on Saturday. Thibodeau expressed her hope that people will not see a lack of togetherness as a result of Herbster’s and Lindstrom’s decisions to remain silent.
“Without knowing the details of why each person has pulled out of the event, I am disappointed that it has happened in the 11th hour,” she said. “Tomorrow’s event is a perfect time to showcase that all Republicans can come together as a united front to promote and support our conservative candidates.”
On Election Night, both Thibodeau and Lindstrom voiced their support for Pillen. Pillen has not received Herbster’s endorsement for the general election.
The second candidate for governor who was scheduled to speak at the event, Breland Ridenour, did not immediately respond to a message that was left on Friday inquiring whether he still intended to speak at the event. Despite this, he was still listed on the agenda that the Freedom Coalition distributed on Friday morning.
Peterson said on Friday afternoon that Ridenour validated his participation in the event by speaking to affirm his attendance.
The major competition placed Ridenour sixth overall.