Terry, Ewing debate in wake of key endorsement, tightening polls

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October 18th, 2012

Omaha, NE – Lee Terry and John Ewing faced off in their second debate Thursday.

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The final debate between the candidates for Nebraska’s Second Congressional District came shortly after a significant new endorsement and new poll numbers that show a tightening race less than three weeks from Election Day. The Omaha World-Herald, which has endorsed Republican incumbent Congressman Lee Terry for his entire career of about 14 years, decided to back Democrat John Ewing this time around.

Congressman Lee Terry is running for his eighth term in Congress, and lost a regular endorsement from the Omaha World-Herald this election. (Photo by Robyn Wisch)

Speaking at the Omaha Press Club after the debate, Terry called the news disappointing. “They’ve endorsed me seven times before; my principles and stands haven’t changed; I’ve been more effective and done more legislation in the last two years,” Terry said. “So of course it’s going to be disappointing.”

The paper has endorsed Governor Mitt Romney for President and is typically conservative. But this year, the editorial board argued Terry has “demonstrated little legislative leadership” during his career in the House of Representatives. That’s a charge Terry disputed. “That’s not true,” Terry said. “There’s been 30 bills that I’ve directly worked with. I’ve been put in leadership roles on major issues like cyber security and spectrum (supporting the creation of lower-power FM radio stations) and jeez, a whole litany list.”

“I’ve been able to get a new veterans cemetery to Omaha, I’ve been able to get us on the list for a new VA hospital,” he continued. “To say that I haven’t been effective is just absolutely wrong.”

John Ewing won the endorsement of the World-Herald, which called him an “extremely capable public servant.” (Photo by Brandon McDermott)

Ewing and Terry hashed that out during the debate, focusing on a central issue in the endorsement and one that has played out on the air waves. Terry ran campaign ads that he later pulled which cited praise for an energy bill that turned out to be misdirected. The World-Herald said the ads were misleading and called it “unseemly behavior from a veteran Congressman.”

During the debate, Terry stood by his assertion that the bill, known as Hill-Terry, was the “boiler plate” of later energy legislation. That prompted this response from Ewing: “I’m not going to discuss for you all today whether or not Hill-Terry became law,” Ewing said. “I would just suggest that you read the Omaha World-Herald editorial and the endorsement of my candidacy and then you can make the decision on whether or not that bill died in committee.”

“May I direct your attention to the World-Herald’s fact checking,” Terry countered. “The World-Herald reporter was intimately involved in the entire process of Hill-Terry bill and that’s why they said in their fact-checking, John, that your position was not accurate.”

The World-Herald’s endorsement could be significant. It comes a time when poll numbers show the race tightening between the two candidates. Ewing’s campaign released a poll Wednesday which put Congressman Terry just four points ahead. After the debate, Ewing said the polls also show he’s ahead among those who know who he is.

“The only thing that we have to do is remind the people of our record and get our message out to the voters about fiscal responsibility, working to create an environment where we can get jobs for the 23 million Americans who are unemployed, underemployed or who have quit looking for work,” Ewing said. “So we’ve been close in our minds all along.”

Ewing repeated that message during the debate, focusing on what he described as his commitment to public service and his 30-year career as a deputy police chief and Douglas County Treasurer.

Ewing still trails Terry in fundraising, but asked whether he’s finding donors are taking his calls a little more in the wake of the paper’s endorsement, Ewing said he has momentum to make a strong showing in the next few weeks. “People taking my calls; people sending money without me calling them which is always nice,” he said. “So we’re not worried about that. We believe we’re hitting our stride at the right time.”

The debate will be broadcast tonight at 9 p.m. on Cox Channel 2, and again tomorrow at 5 p.m. and 10 p.m.

More:

Ewing, Terry debate substantive and spirited

Election 2012: Ewing, Terry split on economic policies

Excerpt photo courtesy Nebraska Watchdog.

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