Published Monday | April 14, 2008
Experience tops calls for change, Terry says
BY TIM ELFRINK
WORLD-HERALD STAFF WRITER
SOURCE: Omaha World Herald Online
Speaking Sunday at an Omaha forum with the two Democrats who want his job, Rep. Lee Terry countered their calls for change with examples of his leadership in Congress.
Terry, R-Neb., highlighted bipartisan successes from his nearly 10 years in the House as Democrats Jim Esch and Richard Carter — who will square off in a primary vote next month — each staked a claim as the better candidate to replace him in the 2nd Congressional District seat.
"It's not a popular word, but 'experience' does matter," Terry said. "Experience isn't just what you learn, but it's the relationships you develop. . . . I'm proud of those I've developed with my Republican colleagues, but also those relationships I've developed across the aisle."
Esch, who lost to Terry by 10 percentage points in 2006, criticized Terry's record and said that, with a struggling U.S. economy and the continuing war in Iraq, Nebraskans are ready for new national leadership.
"Everyone is in agreement we need change in Washington, that we need to start working together once again," said Esch, 32, who has a law degree from Creighton University and has been working for a real estate partnership.
Carter, an Air Force veteran making his first foray into politics, said his military experience and his expertise as an economics teacher make him the better-qualified candidate.
"We're at a critical juncture, and we need serious leaders with serious solutions to serious problems," said Carter, 30, of Bellevue. "We need someone with the experience to win this war on terror."
Answering questions on a wide range of topics, the candidates delineated differing plans on the war in Iraq, the economy and energy policy.
Esch and Carter each called for renewed investment in developing U.S. energy sources and in alternative fuels research. Esch criticized Terry's record as a member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee.
"We've had disastrous energy bills for the last two times they've come through that committee," Esch said. "We've had no real focus on anything other than keeping our dependence on foreign oil."
Terry said the committee has worked to foster energy independence, pointing to legislation encouraging research into hydrogen power and biofuels.
While both Carter and Esch called for withdrawing American troops from Iraq, Carter said his experience flying missions over Iraq gives him a unique perspective on the need to end the war there.
"Whether you think we should have gone into Iraq in the first place is irrelevant," Carter said. "Being in Iraq today doesn't make us any safer at home."
Terry said he also wants to bring troops home, but not at the cost of handing over Iraq to anti-American powers.
"We need to make sure the influence of al-Qaida and other terrorist sects or Iran are not part of the new Iraqi government," Terry said.
The Democratic primary, pitting Carter against Esch, will be held on May 13. A debate between the candidates is scheduled for 7 p.m. Tuesday in the ballroom of the Milo Bail Student Center on the campus of the University of Nebraska at Omaha.
In the Republican primary, Terry faces challenger Steven Laird, who also ran in 2006 but did not conduct a visible campaign. Laird declined to appear at Sunday's forum
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