Chambers wins in landslide, returns to Legislature
Story by Jake Sorensen, NewsNetNebraska
Ernie Chambers abided by the term limit. But in the end, it wasn’t enough to keep him out of the Nebraska Legislature for very long.
The former 38-year-old senator is headed back to Lincoln to represent Omaha’s Legislative District 11, after winning easily over the incumbent Sen. Brenda Council.
Chambers had previously served as the district’s state senator from 1970 through 2008, before a term-limit rule forced him to sit out of the 2008 election, which allowed the Council, a Democrat, to fill the void.
The campaign cycle was one of the strangest seen in the state for quite some time, as the 58-year-old Chambers was trying to come back from a four-year-absence, and Council was mired with a gambling controversy in late September. She plead guilty to two misdemeanor charges stemming from allegations that she misused campaign money at casinos, to the tune of $63,000 over 2.5 years time.
UNL Political Science professor John Hibbing said that even though Chambers won, there was good reason for people to believe it would be a close race.
“Those races are so hard to predict, because we’ve never had anyone come back from term-limit like Chambers,” Hibbing said. “With all the other events that have happened with Council, we’ve never really seen a race like this before.”
Council said following all of the allegations that she would pay back the money. Chambers was forgiving at first, but later used the situation as an advantage to himself by putting up billboards in Omaha to support his cause.
The allegations certainly affected Council. In the May primary, Chambers won, but by a slim margin. Council became more aggressive in her campaign following the gambling negativity surrounding her, but could not help sway voters her way.
Fred Conley, Council’s campaign manager, said he felt confident before the results of the night came through.
“I’m pretty confident that it’ll go our way,” Conley said, before votes were tallied.
Hibbing said from anoutsider’s perspective, it was difficult to see how either candidate would have much of an advantage due to both being African-American in an area of Omaha dominated by the race.
“Chambers obviously has the greater length of experience, but I struggle to think the area isn’t torn on who to vote for, due to both of their African-American backgrounds,” Hibbing said.
Chambers is known mostly for his lawsuit against God in 2007, where he ordered God to, “cease certain harmful activities and the making of terroristic threats.” While it was a move to make a point, it made national news, which Chambers was known for, especially in his knack of filibustering.
He will take office in January.