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Terry builds hefty campaign war chest

U.S. Rep. Lee Terry, R-Neb., has built a big lead in the money race over the two Democrats seeking to challenge him for the 2nd Congressional District seat.

Terry, who has held the Omaha-area seat since 1999, raised $158,000 in the first three months of this year, bringing his total for the 2008 election cycle to $705,500, according to reports filed with the Federal Election Commission.

Terry's campaign reported having $497,000 left in the bank as of March 31.

Democrat Jim Esch, who lost to Terry by 10 percentage points in 2006, reported raising about $27,000 since jumping into the race in late February.

Political newcomer Richard Carter, an Air Force veteran who's also running in the Democratic primary, pulled in less than $5,000. Carter said he had about $2,500 on hand.

"These figures show a wide breadth of support for Congressman Terry," David Boomer, the Republican's campaign manager, said Tuesday.

Esch played down the cash disparity, saying his campaign has been fundraising for less than three weeks. "Obviously, we're lean and mean right now, but we'll ramp up coming into the primary. I think we'll be in great shape," he said.

Carter said his early focus has been on meeting voters and boosting his name recognition rather than raising funds.

Terry's opponent in the Republican primary, Steven Laird, had not filed financial reports with the FEC, which requires candidates to report the funds if they raise more than $5,000. Laird did not return a phone call seeking comment.

In the 1st District, incumbent Republican Jeff Fortenberry of Lincoln raised $59,327 in the first quarter and had $325,561 cash on hand. Fortenberry feels that's a "good, steady number," said his chief of staff, Kelly Lungren McCollum.

Democrat Max Yashirin, an Iraq war veteran from Lincoln, is unopposed in his party's primary. Yashirin has raised about $4,100, according to campaign spokesman John Amdor.

Former Sen. Bob Kerrey has agreed to serve as chairman of Yashirin's campaign finance committee, Amdor said, adding, "We've got real high expectations for next quarter. We're going to surprise a lot of people."

In western Nebraska, 3rd District Rep. Adrian Smith reported raising $107,064 in the first quarter of 2008. The Republican's campaign had a total of $277,561 in cash on hand.

Smith faces GOP primary challenger Jeremiah Ellison, a 29-year-old Grand Island computer programmer, who has raised less than $100.

Two Democrats are seeking their party's nomination for the 3rd District seat.

Jay Stoddard, 77, of Grand Island, said he has not been actively raising funds and had about $550 cash on hand. His primary opponent, Paul Spatz of Osmond, did not return calls seeking comment.

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