Ernie Chambers and State Sen. Brenda Council were busily campaigning as Election Day neared in one of the strangest, most intriguing state legislative races in Nebraska: north Omaha's District 11.
Chambers harshly criticized Council in a campaign rally Friday, a rare public political event for the former 38-year state senator who is seeking election after sitting out for four years because of term limits.
Meanwhile Council, who participated in a brunch rally Sunday aimed at churchgoing voters and attended by 250 people, has been going door-to-door and stepping up her advertising in a campaign that gained energy in recent weeks.
The race turned hard-fought and bitter after Council's September conviction on two misdemeanor counts of abusing public records. She was found to have falsified reports to the Nebraska Accountability and Disclosure Commission by failing to report that she had spent campaign funds to gamble at out-of-state casinos.
A Nebraska Attorney General's Office investigation revealed that Council had spent more than $63,000 in campaign money at casinos over a 2½-year period.
Instead of dropping out of the race, Council began campaigning harder, with the support of the state Democratic Party and several elected officials from north Omaha.
On Friday, Chambers, a registered independent, continued his verbal attacks on Council and her supporters. He appeared at a rally outdoors at 16th and Lothrop Streets that had been organized by supporters and was attended by about 30 people. It was another unusual event in an unusual season for the normally low-key campaigner.
Supporters to Elect Ernie Chambers, the independent political committee that staged Friday's rally, erected billboards for him earlier.
Chambers on Friday singled out a Council campaign ad, in the Omaha Star newspaper, that asserted she has done more for north Omaha in her four years in the Legislature than he had done in his 38 years in Lincoln.
“If she says she's lied more than I have, if she says she has stolen more than I have, if she says she's committed more crimes than I have, it's true. She has done more, but it's to this community,” Chambers said.
“She has shamed, she has disgraced herself, her family, the legal profession and, now, this community.”
Noting that the Legislature had named its Judiciary Committee hearing room for him and that much of Council's casino misspending occurred while she was in the Legislature, Chambers called her “delusional” to claim a record superior to his.
Asked for a response, Council said: “The voters in the district know what I did, and I have been adjudicated for what I did. The voters will decide whether that overshadows all the work I've done in my adult life, and particularly my four years in the Legislature. ... I believe that the residents of this district want to move forward, and I'm the candidate best able to move us forward.”
Chambers' supporters urged voters to check out his record by going to his website, www.senatorchambers.com. He has a “long and verifiable record of accomplishment,” said Denise Cousin, chairwoman of Supporters to Elect Ernie Chambers.
Gannie Clark, a Chambers supporter at the rally, said Council should have bowed out of the race for the good of her constituents.
He questioned how Council could have done more than Chambers “when she is holding a position because of him.”
Clark referred to state legislation, pushed through by Chambers, requiring elections by district in Omaha, which led to black people being elected to the Omaha City Council and to the Omaha school board.
In an interview, Council said she stands by the ad, noting her record on legislation aimed at increasing jobs, creating a summer jobs program, supporting job training and bringing businesses to north Omaha and funding for lead abatement in north Omaha homes.
She urged voters to explore her record at her website, www.brendacouncil.com.
She said she has more ads out and more in the works.
She said she planned more door-to-door campaigning and a big get-out-the-vote push Tuesday.
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