LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) - A special committee tasked with investigating whether Nebraska’s longest-serving state senator lives in his district decided Friday to ask the full Legislature to dismiss the challenge against him.
The allegations against Sen. Ernie Chambers of Omaha came from John Sciara, who argued before the committee that the senator from north Omaha actually lives in Bellevue. Arguments took place in the Ernie Chambers Memorial Hearing Room, named after term limits forced Chambers from office for a four-year period starting in 2008.
Chambers said Sciara, who lost an election to him in November by more than 6,000 votes, tried to dismiss the will of voters who have continually re-elected him in every election since 1971 in which he has appeared on the ballot.
“You’re trying to overturn an election,” he said. “It should be based on more than rumor, scandal-mongering or whatever else is involved in this.”
Sciara previously told the AP he had been planning to file a complaint since 2012, when he began hearing rumors Chambers lived in Bellevue. But he sat out the 2012 election, in which Chambers defeated one-term incumbent Brenda Council, because he expected he would lose in the nonpartisan primary election and be unable to file a challenge.
Chambers has owned a home in north Omaha since 2006 and rented the house for 20 years before he purchased it. Sciara argued that lower-than-typical water and electricity usage and the fact that he has passed Chambers’ home at various times, including 2 a.m., without seeing him prove he does not live there.
The Nebraska Constitution says a senator must reside within the district for a year before an election. State law defines residence as a candidate’s permanent and principal home and stipulates that he or she must intend to return.
Chambers’s attorney, Mark McGuire, presented 10 years’ worth of bills for home maintenance, including roof repair, gutter work and landscaping. He also shared Chambers’ property tax statement, other mail and his print subscription to the Omaha World-Herald.
“One doesn’t have a newspaper delivered to some house they don’t live in,” McGuire said. “He lives there. He gets the newspaper there.”
Sciara contends Chambers most likely lives in Bellevue with his aide, Cynthia Grandberry, with whom he carpools to the Capitol each day. Bellevue Sen. Carol Blood, who has lived on the same street as Grandberry for a decade, said she sees Chambers drive in every morning to pick Grandberry up and return to drop her off each evening.
“We know what’s going on in our neighborhood, and Sen. Chambers does not live there,” Blood said.
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