Rhetoric "soars" in final Terry, White debate

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October 19th, 2010

Bellevue, NE – In the final debate before the November 2nd election, Republican incumbent Lee Terry and his Democratic opponent Tom White got one more chance to frame their arguments in a back and forth campaign that’s become increasingly heated.

Lee Terry and Tom White debate for the final time before the Nov. 2 election (Photo Robyn Wisch)

The debate took place at Bellevue University. Terry was on more friendly ground in the conservative Omaha suburb, which has a large military population tied to Offutt Air Force base. But each of the candidates got their fair share of applause from the crowd, which got increasingly rowdy as the debate went on. Federal spending was a major topic, as it’s been throughout the campaign. Both White and Terry say spending is out of control and needs to be curbed. But asked about defense spending, an issue close to home for this audience, both were reluctant to suggest specific cuts.

White said there’s lots of waste in the defense budget, but said Terry should have done more to bring dollars home for Offutt, referencing a lost bid for the base to be named the site of a new nuclear command.  “We lost the joint Global Strike Command even though clearly we were far and away the most qualified place,” White said. “We lost that in part because Congressman Terry was not an effective representative to protect our interests.” White added, “Congressman Terry has criticized the stimulus package, and yet over $30 million in the stimulus package went to improve the facilities at Offutt Air Force base.”

White also criticized Terry for not helping Sen. Ben Nelson, the only Nebraska Congressional representative who hasn’t sworn off earmarks, to secure funding to rebuild Offutt’s headquarters.

Terry said it’s disingenuous of White to blame him for Offutt’s loss of the Global Strike bid. To applause from the crowd, Terry sarcastically shot back, “Tom, good speech, I assume you gave that to Ben Nelson who was the head of that team.” Terry said spending is “an incredibly important issue.” “It’s taking money away from the private sector, it’s causing a drag on our economy which means that job growth is not occurring.” Terry said one of of the differences between him and White is that he doesn’t think there should be any “sacred cows.” “There’s going to be the pain shared across the board here,” he said.

Both candidates hammered home their campaign talking points. Terry said he’s trying to grow the economy and fight for jobs, while White is advocating more government and “villainizing” job creators. White argued he’ll stand up for the middle class, while Terry is too close to corporations and Wall Street. The rhetoric continued to heat up. At one point, Terry told White that if he calls himself a fiscal hawk, to go “soar” with Nancy Pelosi. He also said White should get “out of the gutter” pointing to a campaign ad that references a seemingly inappropriate conversation with a “comely lobbyist.” White countered the ad is quoting media reports and demonstrates how the Congressman is perceived in Washington.

The two candidates head into the final stretch with almost matching funds in their campaign coffers. So Omahans are likely to hear more from both Terry and White before November 2nd.

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