Lee Terry has represented the 2nd Congressional District for nearly 14 years. Seven elections, largely against opponents who ran less-than-stellar campaigns or were less qualified to serve Nebraskans in the House of Representatives.
It is important to note that this newspaper has supported Terry in each of those elections. But the Republican congressman has demonstrated relatively little legislative leadership during his time in the House, a period that included 10 years of GOP majorities.
His voting record is conservative and has largely represented the views of his constituents in Omaha and the surrounding areas. And it's notable that if Terry were to be re-elected, his accumulated seniority makes him likely to win the chairmanship of a subcommittee if Republicans retain control of the House.
This year, however, Terry is facing a challenge from an extremely capable public servant, Douglas County Treasurer John Ewing.
After 14 years, it's time for a change.
Ewing became treasurer in 2007, following a distinguished career with the Omaha Police Department that included service as head of the special victims unit and as a deputy chief.
Ewing has served as an exemplary Douglas County treasurer, cleaning up a dysfunctional office with customer service problems and which saw an embezzlement under his predecessor. Ewing has led the effort to modernize the county treasurer process — leading the way with online services, including payment of property taxes and motor vehicle registration renewals. A Democrat, he has worked effectively with Nebraska's other county treasurers, many of whom are Republicans.
Ewing also deserves credit for stepping forward and chairing the United Way of the Midlands committee that handled funds donated for victims and families after the 2007 Von Maur shootings. He used remarkable diplomacy and grace in overseeing the handling of well over $1 million. Unlike the experiences in many other locales, the Von Maur fund operated without lawsuits by potential recipients or problems with Internal Revenue Service requirements.
It is that spirit of collaboration and compromise, the ability to work across divides to find practical solutions, that Ewing would bring to a seat in the U.S. House.
It is troubling that the Terry campaign, with substantial leads in both opinion polls and fundraising, would have resorted to misleading television commercials that required the candidate to backtrack during Monday night's debate.
Terry has apologized for misquoting the Union of Concerned Scientists in his ad taking credit for passage of a law to boost fuel efficiency in motor vehicles. It's telling that the ad cited as a key accomplishment a bill Terry authored but which didn't make it out of committee, although Terry says legislative negotiations incorporated parts of his proposal into another bill that did pass.
Terry's campaign also withdrew an ad that accused his opponent of “racking up big deficits” at the Treasurer's Office and used the sort of “fuzzy math” aimed at misleading voters and casting aspersions on opponents. The facts, according to World-Herald reporting, are that Ewing's office did not run a deficit.
Yes, spending rose after Ewing initially took office and yes, total spending today is about $610,000 higher than that original level. But figures from County Clerk/Comptroller Tom Cavanaugh also show that spending by the office declined each year after the economic downturn in 2008 and that the total number of employees today is smaller.
In any event, it's unseemly behavior for a veteran congressman, and it painted an erroneous picture of Ewing's stewardship of tax dollars while treasurer.
Ewing has a proven record of leadership and accomplishment in public service. He has stepped beyond political clichés, demonstrating thoughtful analysis and a depth of knowledge in discussing the many difficult issues facing the next Congress.
He has earned the opportunity to serve in the House of Representatives. We suggest that District 2 voters cast their ballot for John Ewing on Nov. 6.
12 p.m. today: U.S. Rep. Lee Terry and Douglas County Treasurer John Ewing meet again in a debate sponsored by the Omaha Press Club and the League of Women Voters.
More coverage of the Terry-Ewing race