Omaha businessman challenges Terry in 2nd District GOP Primary

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May 9, 2014 - 6:30am

Congressman Lee Terry has represented Nebraska’s 2nd congressional district since 1998. His challenger in the primary election, Dan Frei, said Terry hasn’t focused enough on controlling spending in Washington.


When Congressman Lee Terry was first elected to represent Nebraska’s 2nd District, he told voters he would limit his time in office to three terms. If Omaha metro voters decide to send him back to Washington, it will be for his ninth term. But first, he has to defeat yet another challenger in the primaries.

“Frankly, it’s been frustrating to me. And all of them have just said I’m not loud enough, I’m not harsh enough. But I am who I am. I’m about finding solutions. I’m about talking in policy terms, not partisan terms,” Terry said.

On his record of working with Democrats on the other side of the aisle, Terry said that shouldn’t be held against him. For example, he explained his work in 2007 to pass a bill to help low-power FM radio stations is an example of both parties working together to achieve a common good.

“That was with a Democrat from Pittsburgh, Mike Doyle. He and I are friends. I don’t know if I’m allowed to say I’m friends with a Democrat, but we are friends and we wrote that together,” Terry said.

In 2013, Terry also worked with Democrat Eliot Engel from New York to pass legislation to reauthorize the National Poison Control Network.

Like most Republicans however, Terry doesn’t see eye-to-eye with Democrats on many issues.

In April, President Obama criticized the Republican-controlled House for refusing to take up the immigration reform bill passed by the Democrat-controlled Senate.

Terry said the House will consider some level of immigration reform issues this year.

“We want to make sure there is a legal process to come into our country, but we have to make sure we have border-security and e-verify, and visa reform as well. So there will be a lot of work to be done this year,” Terry said.

Like most House Republicans, Terry voted multiple times to repeal or defund parts or all of the Affordable Care Act, also called Obamacare.

He voted to suspend or delay the individual mandate of the law, and said the president’s definition of a 30-hour work week being full-time will hurt businesses and workers alike.

But it’s Terry’s support for legislation like the bank bailouts and raising the debt ceiling that is drawing the ire of Dan Frei, the man running to unseat the eight-term congressman.

Frei said Terry can’t call himself a fiscal conservative with votes like those.

“You certainly lose your credibility as a fiscal conservative when you go to Washington and propose a balanced budget amendment, you don’t get it passed, and then you vote time and again for debt ceiling increases,” Frei said. “Those two don’t reconcile.”

Frei moved to Omaha 20 years ago, and is the vice president of an information technology company. He said his business background provides him with the practical knowledge needed to rein in spending in Washington.

In years past, Frei said he has worked to help get Lee Terry elected. Now, Frei thinks Terry has to be held accountable for the role he played in adding to the nation’s $17 trillion of debt.

“It becomes his fault when the champion that he says he’s going to be gets to Washington and then votes for big government legislation. He was going to be the champion of reducing the size of government, reducing spending, reducing the debt, reducing taxes. You cannot run as a fiscal conservative, and then go to Washington and vote for the big government legislation,” Frei said.

Like Terry, Frei said Obamacare should be repealed. He said health care should be run at the state level, and competition brought back into the marketplace. Frei said people need to be “health insurance consumers,” similar to automotive or property insurance consumers.

“They all have a vested interest. They’re taking a look at the coverage that they’ve got and the money that they’re paying for that coverage, and their identifying what is it that I need. There’s a lot of opportunity to get the constituents engaged at that level,” Frei said.

When it comes to immigration, Frei acknowledged he may differ from many Republicans. He said he’s made several missions trips to Mexico, most recently with a group of around 80 youth.

“And I can tell you, the first day we got to Juarez, the headline in Juarez was ‘17 dead found in the street.’ If that were the hand that were dealt to me, you could not keep me from crossing this border,” Frei said.

Frei said securing the borders and enforcing the laws on the books should be the first priorities in immigration reform, but added illegal immigrants who are here to provide for their families need to be given the chance to come out of the shadows and be counted.

Congressman Terry said in addition to figuring out who can legally work in the U.S., he’s trying to make sure there are enough jobs to go around. From his position on the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, Terry said he’s working to get projects like the Keystone XL pipeline going, and bringing good jobs to Nebraska.

“When you look at the policies that I’m pushing, particularly in the energy and telecommunications world, they’re job creators. Frankly, we’ve spent too much time in partisan bickering instead of trying to figure out where we can actually work together,” Terry said.

On Tuesday, Republican voters in the 2nd district will decide whether Congressman Terry will advance to the general election, or if they’ll opt for a newcomer in Dan Frei.

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