Thursday, September 13, 2007

LD-11: Contenders Emerging To Succeed Chambers

by Kyle Michaelis
By: Dave Sund

A legislative giant of 38 years who drew strong feelings (both pro- and con-) throughout the state, Ernie Chambers will be forced out of the legislature due to term limits in 2008.
 Now, the race to succeed him in the legislature begins. So far, two candidates, both Democrats, one Democrat, and one independent, have emerged. The first is Preston Love, Jr.

Preston Love Jr. may become the first person to vie for the chance to succeed State Sen. Ernie Chambers of Omaha in the Nebraska Legislature. Love has scheduled a Sept. 20 press conference to announce that he will run for the District 11 seat. Term limits will force Chambers, who has served in the Legislature since 1971, to vacate his seat in January 2009. Love, 65 and a registered Democrat, said Monday he sees the Legislature as his best chance to help north Omaha. "With the challenges and crises we're in, we need a major, major focus," on north Omaha, Love said. "I have weighed the alternatives, and this is where I could have the most impact." Love, a former University of Nebraska football player and the son of the late Omaha jazz great Preston Love Sr., has an impressive political resume. A former IBM executive, Love served as the Rev. Jesse Jackson's campaign manager in Jackson's 1984 bid for the presidency and was the first executive director of Jackson's Rainbow Coalition. He also worked in the late Harold Washington's 1983 and 1987 successful campaigns for mayor of Chicago. Along with those triumphs, however, Love suffered some embarrassing lows back home. He withdrew from a bid for the Metropolitan Utilities District board in 1992 after acknowledging an addiction to cocaine. He was arrested for shoplifting cigarettes during his unsuccessful bid for Omaha City Council in 1993. He got a $100 fine and 20 hours of community service after pleading no contest to the shoplifting charge.

The second is Matthew Stelly.

Matthew Stelly, 52, a consultant and doctoral student, said he is best-suited to protect Chambers' legacy. "I've studied Ernie Chambers more than anybody else," Stelly said Wednesday. "The person who succeeds Ernie should defend what Ernie built, what Ernie stood for, and make sure it stays in place." Stelly, a registered independent, joins Preston Love Jr., a Democrat who has scheduled a Sept. 20 press conference to officially announce his bid for the District 11 seat in next year's elections. However, Stelly would have to move to be able to file for the office. Stelly presently lives near 48th and Izard Streets, in District 8. In 2006, he ran for the District 8 legislative seat, finishing fifth in the primary election. Democrat Tom White was elected to the post in November. The Nebraska Constitution requires senators to have lived one year in their districts before their election. Stelly said he is willing to move. He said much is at stake for District 11. "Because of the demographic changes in north Omaha, somebody white" might win, said Stelly, who is black. Black lawmakers have represented the area since the 1950s. Chambers has held the seat since 1971 and must step down because of term limits. "The best politician we ever had, who wasn't compromising and stood for being black, was Ernie Chambers," Stelly said. Stelly said he feared that critical legislation passed by Chambers, such as district elections for the Omaha City Council, the Douglas County Board and the Omaha Public Schools board, could be undone by future Legislatures. "It could be open season on north Omaha," Stelly said.

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