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A congressman's story

If a member of Congress met the following description, wouldn’t he deserve reelection? Yes, he would. Consider this real-life member of the U.S. House.

Rather than uprooting to Washington, D.C., his family stayed in his congressional district. Each weekend, the congressman flies back to be with them. While in Washington, he doesn’t stay in an extravagant home or a fancy townhouse; he sleeps on a cot in his office.

This election year, his political challenger says that if elected next month, he would devote much energy to meeting with residents and leaders in the congressional district. But that’s what the incumbent congressman is already doing. He gets his staff members out around the community, too, to make sure they stay in the loop about needs and discussions in his city.

In fact, this lawmaker works behind the scenes — and works across party lines with one of the state’s U.S. senators — to help get problems addressed. He doesn’t seek the limelight or try to hog all the credit. But he does strive to stay informed about his city and to help.

If you doubt that, just ask him, for example, about the local Veterans Affairs hospital. He’s up to speed on the latest developments. The truth is that he is part of the discussions to help the hospital meet its needs, but if you ask him, he notes that he is only one of several players. This congressman doesn’t claim to be saving the world single-handedly.

He does understand the importance of constituent service. And he has assembled a team respected for its energy and effectiveness in making sure that veterans, retirees and others get the help they deserve. This congressman recognizes that the most important contribution he can make in Washington is dedicated service to his main committee. In his particular case, that is the Energy and Commerce Committee. He devotes tremendous study to energy issues — to the point that he is respected on Capitol Hill for his understanding of energy questions of crucial importance for our country’s future.

In an era when so many partisans leap to depict the opposing party as a dire danger to the nation, this congressman eschews such rhetoric. In fact, not long ago he worked with the other party in the House to reach consensus on a pragmatic policy on raising fuel-economy standards.

It is ironic that this congressman is mocked so snidely by some in his district, given the reality that he has pursued a serious-minded, unegotistical approach to his public service.

This year, the congressman is facing an honorable and well-spoken challenger. Voters are rightly sizing up the two contenders in what it appears to be a tight race.

It’s hard to get a clear handle on what the challenger actually seeks to do in a lot of cases, though. Nuanced positions can be a reflection of a thoughtful person. But too much nuance can mean too much vagueness. Voters deserve more.

In this contest, the incumbent congressman has demonstrated commendable devotion to his district, state and nation. He deserves the opportunity to continue his work in Washington, where he would build on his seniority.

This congressman is Rep. Lee Terry of Omaha, and he deserves re­election.

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