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Lee Terry says issue is spending

Terry leads White in fundraising

Published Saturday July 10, 2010: By Don Walton, LINCOLN JOURNAL STAR

OMAHA - Lee Terry is relaxed and on message, abandoning his coffee occasionally to chat with constituents who spot him at Westwood Plaza.

"This election is about spending, spending, the economy and jobs," Omaha's six-term Republican congressman says.

"People are worried about the spending, the rising national debt, our reliance on China."

Runaway federal expenditures and ballooning budget deficits stifle job creation, Terry says, and endanger America's future.

"Spending, especially during the last two years, is just out of control," he says.

"That's the issue."

And Terry says he'll try to draw a sharp contrast between his views and those of Democratic challenger Tom White on the role and cost of government.

"That's what it's going to come down to," Terry says.

"There's a clear difference here."

Health care reform, federal economic stimulus spending, financial regulatory reform already have emerged as differences, and there will be more, Terry says.

Before it's over, he suggests, voters will have a clear choice to make.

Terry and White are ensnared in an attention-grabbing shootout for metropolitan Omaha's 2nd District House seat. It's a contest that floats across the radar screens of both parties in Washington.

This month's Democratic meltdown in Nebraska's gubernatorial race has shifted even more emphasis onto the battle, which has the appearance of being the only game in town.

Terry, 48, is a smooth political veteran, skilled at making his case. After eight years on the Omaha City Council, he was elected to the House in 1998 and has successfully defended his turf in a swing district against a series of Democratic challengers.

The 2nd District has been a Democratic outpost in Nebraska. It's the only district that has elected a Democratic congressman in the past four decades.

Terry says he learned a lesson four years ago when he approached his contest with young Democratic newcomer Jim Esch brimming with overconfidence.

"We were not as focused as we should have been," he says. "It's not going to happen again."

Chasing Terry under the radar, Esch crept within striking distance before the congressman saw him coming and won with a final burst in 2006.

Two years ago, Terry mounted an aggressive campaign and defeated Esch by 10,000 votes while his district was handing its presidential electoral vote to Democratic nominee Barack Obama.

"My view is (this year) is going to be a tight race," Terry says.

"I want to be intense. I want our people pumped up and working. I'm sure we'll be fine."

Terry plans to try to tie White to the national Democratic agenda and to the favorite Republican target, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

"Are we going to control spending or continue a level of deficit spending that could bankrupt the country in four or five years?" he asks.

Terry says he opposed a costly House bill to extend unemployment insurance benefits and is challenging White to state how he would have voted on the measure.

"You vote yes or no," he says. "That's your only choice."

White has criticized Terry's recent vote against the financial regulatory reform package approved by the House, but Terry argues "the bill went too far."

Gesturing out the window from a side table at Starbucks, Terry says "every financial transaction at that Bank of the West right across the parking lot would be regulated."

That's government overreach, he says, rather than just needed Wall Street reform.

Terry made two hours of fund-raising calls prior to heading for the shopping plaza at 120th and West Center Road for an interview on this July morning.

While he talks, campaign workers are busy on the telephone and at computers a few blocks away.

This is the big one in Nebraska this year, and there are four months to go.

Reach Don Walton at 402-473-7248 or at [email protected]

 

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