THE RACE FOR CITY COUNCIL – EAST SIDE

New Challengers and An Open Seat


The primary election for the City of Omaha will be held Tuesday, April 4, 2017. City elections are nonpartisan with the top two vote-getters moving on to the May 9 general election. Here’s a summary of the Council seats with competitive races during the primary. 

District 2 – Northeast Omaha 

Five candidates are expected to run for Omaha’s District 2 City Council seat, current Council Member Ben Gray, Krystal Gabel, Bradley Whitmore, Gwen Easter, and Dennis Womack. 

Ben Gray was elected to the Omaha City Council in June of 2009 and reelected in 2013. He is currently the president of the City Council. Gray, a Democrat, has fought for a more level playing field for small contractors and secured funding to create the 

“Step Up” summer jobs programs. He pushed for a master plan for North Omaha, fought for the civil rights of

the LGBT community and worked to help those chronically unemployed. 

Gray pushed for the “Good Neighbor” ordinance that addresses problem liquor establishments and championed the newly formed Land Bank to address problem properties and the numerous empty lots across the city.

Before being elected to the Omaha City Council, Gray was a photo-journalist for KETV Channel 7. He produced and hosted “Kaleidoscope” which was on the air for 30 years. He is married to Freddie Gray, his wife of nearly twenty-five years. They have a blended family of seven children, twelve grandchildren, and two great-grandchildren. 

Krystal Gabel is a technical writer for ACI Worldwide, Inc. Gabel earned a bachelor’s degree in writing from Briar Cliff University in 2005. She wants to be the voice for the working class and the working poor. Gabel believes Nebraskans want jobs and education, not handouts and incarceration. She is Co-chair & Volunteer Coordinator for Legal Marijuana Now Nebraska. She believes the legalization of marijuana and hemp would bring industry and freedom to the citizens of Omaha and Nebraska. 

Gabel, an independent, ran unsuccessfully for the Metropolitan Utilities District Board of Directors and the Omaha Public School Board during the 2016 election. 

Bradley Whitmore was born and raised in the Minne Lusa area of North Omaha. Whitmore is new to politics but has no plans to make a career out of it. He feels career politicians are a major part of the problem we face today. He believes it is important to give others a chance to serve and bring in fresh ideas. Recruiting new business to District 2, is a top priority for Whitmore. He wants to combat the unfair, negative stigma attached to North Omaha due to stereotypes and prejudices. 

Whitmore is a licensed EMT. He and his wife, Megan, have three children. 

Gwen Easter, a registered Democrat, is the founder of Safe Haven Community Center and an advocate for those with Dyslexia. Safe Haven is a nonprofit providing resources as well as referral, advocacy, and social services. Its mission is to ensure that all its clients receive education and housing services needed to have a healthy, stable home environment and become productive citizens. 

Easter was a vocal opponent to the Omaha Public Schools’ changes to the sex education curriculum. This is her first time running for office.

Dennis Womack, a workforce development professional, has not yet filed but is expected to run. Womack’s background includes work for the U.S. 

Department of Commerce, Census Bureau, Chief Deputy Election Commissioner, Douglas County, State of Nebraska-HHS, Omaha Small Business Network and the Urban League of Nebraska Inc. 

Womack’s priorities are to increase access to city services, expansion of workforce programs with an emphasis on programs for those 19 years and older, confiscating illegal guns, and job creation. 

District 3 – Downtown and Midtown 

Three people have filed for the District 3 City Council seat, incumbent Chris Jerram, Gilbert Ayala, and JR Jasso. 

Chris Jerram was elected to the City Council in 2009 and again in 2013. Jerram, a Democrat, serves as Chair of the City Council’s Public Works Committee and sits on the Law and Finance Committees. 

Jerram has practiced law in Omaha for the last twenty years. He has served as President of the Morton Meadows Neighborhood Association, Board of Directors of the Governor’s Council to Keep Nebraska Beautiful, and the Omaha Zoning Board of Appeals. 

Jerram says he is committed to growing the heart of Omaha through continued economic development. His priorities are making Omaha a safe, affordable and welcoming place to live, work and play. 

Chris and his wife, Jennifer, have been married for over 20 years and have two children, Katie and Shannon. 

Gilbert Ayala, a grocery store and restaurant worker, is a Republican and considers himself a strong conservative. Ayala believes in smaller government, lower taxes, and a strong police force. His Catholic faith informs many of his political beliefs. Ayala is fervently anti-abortion and against same-sex marriage. 

Ayala is married with two children. 

JR Jasso is a media producer at Creighton University. Jasso, a Republican, voted as a registered Democrat in 2008 and 2009. But during President Barack Obama’s first term he had a change of heart. Jasso became disillusioned with the Democratic Party feeling too many things were being given away. He believes people need to pick themselves up by the bootstraps. He wants to cut taxes, reduce crime, and overhaul the fire union contract, which he believes is too generous. 

Jasso ran against Jerram in 2013, garnering 31% of the vote to Jerram’s 69%. 

District 4 – Southeast Omaha 

Three Democrats, Jim Rogers, Vinny Palermo, and Kimara Snipe are vying to replace retiring City Council member Garry Gernandt. 

Jim Rogers is a South Omaha native and sees the cultural diversity and mix of heritages of the district as enormous assets. Rogers is running to ensure 

the citizens of South Omaha receive their fair share of essential city services, neighborhood development, and grant projects. He believes it is critical to train the city’s workforce for the jobs of tomorrow. Rogers wants the city to have a more robust economy and create tourist destinations to compliment attractions such as the Zoo and College World Series. 

Rogers was the Outreach Director for Congressman Brad Ashford and a former Executive Director of the Nebraska Democratic Party. 

Vinny Palermo is a member of Omaha Public School Board representing Subdistrict nine. Palermo was elected to the board in November and will have to give up that position if elected to Omaha’s City Council. 

Palermo is the owner of a tree trimming and removal service. He was born and raised in 

South Omaha and is a veteran of the United States Navy. He has one daughter. 

Kimara Snipe is president of the Highland South-Indian Hill Neighborhood Association and secretary of the South Omaha Neighborhood Alliance. 

Snipe, a business consultant for Heartland Workforce Solutions, hopes to be a strong liaison between South Omaha residents and city government. She believes all too often people feel disconnected from public service and the governmental process. She sees several issues facing South Omaha including affordable housing, transportation, and safer neighborhoods as well as the need to strengthen the relationship between the community and the police department. 


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