Lee Terry, Tom White head to 2nd District showdown

Terry leads White in fundraising

Published Saturday, October 16, 2010: By Don Walton, LINCOLN JOURNAL STAR

Showdown district.

Lee Terry, six-term Republican congressman, and Tom White, his Democratic challenger, are riding toward a "High Noon" shootout in metropolitan Omaha's town square.

The 2nd District contest is Nebraska's only competitive congressional race this year when measured in terms of history, campaign resources and voter registration numbers.

Terry won re-election in 2008 with less than 52 percent of the vote, but he demonstrated political resilience in swimming upstream against the surge that swept Barack Obama to a presidential electoral vote in the district.

This year is different.

Not a presidential election year. No Obama. A smaller and different voter profile, perhaps more favorably tilted to Republicans.

It's a bad election year for Democrats, but also a bad year for incumbents, so how does that shake out?

Omaha hands an edge to Democrats in voter registration numbers, but Sarpy County remains a dependable Republican firewall in the district.

District 2 is composed of Douglas County and portions of Sarpy, including Bellevue, LaVista and Papillion.

Although there have been some close contests, Democrats last won the House seat 18 years ago. If that sounds distant, consider that they haven't won a congressional election in Nebraska outside the Omaha district in 46 years.

White, 53, a one-term Omaha state senator, comes to this battle with the persuasive skills of a trial lawyer, presenting his arguments with discipline and portraying strength and leadership during debates.

Terry, 48, steady and on message, claims the conservative ground and paints a choice for voters between government growth or private sector support and personal freedom.

"I believe in empowering the people, and my opponent believes in the power of government," Terry says.

"My opponent believes that we can spend our way out of the recession, and I believe we need to cut spending and provide certainty to small businesses looking for a lifeline."

Says White: "My priority is making America work for the middle class."

"Congressman Terry has spent 12 years in Washington supporting the priorities of special interests and his party leaders," White says.

Two debates in Omaha last week fleshed out significant differences on key issues, including health care reform, the war in Afghanistan, economic policy, regulatory reform.

White said he wants to fix problems in the health care reform law, but would resist going back to the day when millions of Americans had no health care coverage, children were denied coverage because of pre-existing conditions and many older Americans could not afford their prescription drugs.

Terry said he'd like to repeal the health care law and seek solutions in the private market through tax credits, expanded use of high-risk pools and adoption of "risk adjustment mechanisms" that enable those with pre-existing conditions to obtain coverage.

Terry supports U.S. policy in Afghanistan, but suggests Obama's July 2011 date for beginning to withdraw U.S. troops should yield, if necessary, to military considerations and conditions on the ground.

White argues the United States should not be trapped in an endless policy of nation-building in unstable societies while needs at home go unmet.

He supported the Obama administration's economic stimulus package as a necessary response to a deep recession that appeared on the edge of cratering into depression.

Lost in all the political rhetoric, he says, is the fact that one-third of the package provided tax cuts for middle-income Americans.

Terry says the stimulus was "a complete failure," resulting in growth of government while failing to reverse job losses.

White supported financial regulatory reforms that were designed to rein in Wall Street and attempt to prevent another financial meltdown.

Terry says White displays an anti-business bias that favors government regulation and growth rather than private sector incentives that strengthen small businesses and promote job growth.

"I hold true to my conservative beliefs of limited government, less spending, lower taxes and reducing the (federal budget) deficit," Terry says.

A key ingredient, he says, must be enactment of a constitutional amendment to require a balanced federal budget.

White says he'd work to create jobs, reduce the deficit and be a champion for the middle class.

"We must move toward a balanced budget and end the petty partisanship that has poisoned Washington for far too long," he says.

Voters in the 2nd District will bring down the curtain on Nebraska's premier 2010 election contest in 16 days.

In 2012, it'll be a brand new show.

Population shifts over the past decade will require the Legislature to draw new boundaries for Nebraska's only competitive congressional district next year.

And that will ignite another political battle worth the price of admission.


< Return to News Page