Omaha Sen. Ernie Chambers is not really one to mark birthdays to begin with, but he was particularly steamed Friday when he received a card, via interoffice mail, from Gov. Pete Ricketts.
He didn't open it, so he had to assume it was a birthday card. And he quickly penned a message on the front of the envelope to send back through the same delivery system.
Friday was Chambers' 83rd birthday. It may be the last one he spends as a state senator, Nebraska's longest-serving one, as his term expires in early January.
"Governor Ricketts," he wrote, "I realize that card sending is merely a pro forma exercise. But due to the disrespect you consistently maintain (exemplified by the RACIST CAMPAIGN flyer you exuberantly endorsed in the Slama campaign) toward me, is so personally disgusting that I find this card to be the crowning insult from a deep-dyed RACIST."
And he signed his name.
The flyer was sent out in District 1 during the campaign between Sen. Julie Slama and opponent Janet Palmtag. It said Palmtag "sides with Lincoln liberals, atheists and radical extremists," with separate photos of Palmtag and Chambers.
Chambers said he doesn't know Palmtag, has never even seen her in person.
"It's strictly the race card, and it's playing to the racism that Ricketts and the 'Repelicans' know is rampant there," he said.
The message he is sending to Ricketts on the return card is mild, he said. "No profanity. No giving insult for insult as he has done."
The Slama mailing went out during the primary campaign, and former Democratic Gov. Bob Kerrey and former Republican Gov. Dave Heineman in June urged Slama of Peru to apologize for what they described as "racist, negative campaigning" directed at her opponent, who is a Republican like Slama.
Ryan Hamilton, executive director of the Nebraska Republican Party, told the Journal Star he was responsible for the content of the mailing after consulting with Jessica Flanagain, the governor's 2018 campaign manager.
Ricketts has said the flyer was appropriate and called Heineman's and Kerrey's request for an apology from Slama a shameful political attack.
Slama was appointed to the Legislature by Ricketts in 2019 and is seeking election to a four-year term in November with the governor's strong support.
Ricketts' spokesman, Taylor Gage, said simply this about Chambers' reaction to the card: "The birthday cards are a courtesy the governor does for state senators, their wives and fellow governors."
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