Map: Click here to compare the new and old District 2 boundaries.
For the first time in 14 years, Rep. Lee Terry attended the Gretna Days parade as a candidate seeking votes.
His presence sparked some confusion. Many voters asked him some version of the question, “Why are you here?”
Terry was there last month because of redistricting. The winner of this fall's 2nd Congressional District race will represent a new district that adds Gretna and other parts of western Sarpy County but loses Offutt Air Force Base and parts of Bellevue.
Terry, a seven-term incumbent, and his Democratic opponent, Douglas County Treasurer John Ewing, must now introduce themselves to new voters. But both men say the boundary changes won't mean major shifts in their approach to the election.
The biggest difference is the loss of Offutt and its surrounding community, which shifted into the 1st District, represented by Republican Rep. Jeff Fortenberry. Instead of Offutt and Bellevue, the district now includes Papillion, Gretna, Springfield and other fast-growing suburban Omaha communities.
The 2nd District candidates say they still hear often about military issues from many western Sarpy County voters with close ties to the base.
The district now has a higher proportion of registered Republicans, though the gap narrows among frequent voters.
The difference between registered Republicans and Democrats is wider by about 1,300 voters in the new district, a World-Herald analysis shows.
But among those who have voted in at least three of the past four elections — or who have recently registered to vote and have voted in two of the last four elections — the difference is smaller, about 250 voters.
Such differences become almost negligible when you consider Douglas County's 316,500 registered voters, with Republicans and Democrats split almost evenly and a high proportion of independent voters.
Terry last represented western Sarpy County in 2000, but anyone who moved there or came of age after 1998 has never seen his name on a ballot.
However, new 2nd District voters are often familiar with Terry's name.
Republican campaign consultant Rod Edwards said Terry's 14 years in Congress means that voters nearby have been exposed to his message.
“When you're in close proximity to Omaha and the 2nd District, you're going to know who Lee Terry is,” said Edwards, who has run state legislative and other campaigns in Douglas and Sarpy Counties.
David Boomer, Terry's campaign manager, said many longtime voters there still remember Terry from his single term representing them.
For Terry, “it's kind of like a homecoming,” Boomer said.
But Ewing sees an opportunity to bring his message to those who have never voted for Terry.
Ewing, a former Omaha police deputy chief, believes he can appeal to those with military ties.
“We believe my police background relates to those people,” he said.
Paul Landow, a political science professor at the University of Nebraska at Omaha and former Democratic activist, said the 2nd District always has leaned Republican. The increase in registered Republicans, he said, just adds to the struggle for Ewing.
But that doesn't substantially change what Landow believes Ewing should do: Try to turn out the vote in Democratic areas by talking about his work in the Douglas County Treasurer's Office.
“I would be making certain that I squeeze every single vote out of my Democratic base that I could,” Landow said.
The difference between registered voters in each party is close enough that both campaigns are targeting independents, who make up about one-fifth of the district's registered voters.
Edwards, the Republican consultant, said how independents swing this year could foreshadow how the new district votes over the next decade.
“I think this election will tell a lot,” he said.
World-Herald staff writer Matt Wynn contributed to this report.
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