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Now that Rep. Lee Terry has been re-elected, he's ready to move past the partisanship of the past few years and get to work.
With at least two more years of a divided Congress, he hopes his fellow Republicans will do the same.
“The reality is that the Republicans in the House are going to have to conclude that when the other party has the White House and the Senate, we can't get all of what we want,” he said. “But (Senate Majority Leader) Harry Reid has to realize the same thing.”
Terry won an eighth term Tuesday against Democrat John Ewing in what turned out to be his closest general election.
It took a Republican firewall in Sarpy County to bail out Terry in the Omaha-based 2nd Congressional District.
Terry cleaned up in Sarpy and west Omaha, taking three out of four votes in some suburban, Republican-dominated precincts. His margin in Sarpy was more than 9,000 votes, and he beat Ewing by another 18,000 votes west of 132nd Street in Douglas County.
But Terry needed those votes to stay ahead of Ewing, who racked up big wins in Democratic strongholds east of 72nd Street. In north Omaha, for example, he took some precincts with 95 percent of the vote.
Ewing also ran close to Terry in the central part of Douglas County – roughly 72nd Street to 132nd Street – even though that area has more Republican than Democratic precincts.
In all, Ewing beat Terry in Douglas County by 3,300 votes.
Terry got fewer votes in the district than Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney. Four years ago, Terry ran ahead of GOP nominee Sen. John McCain.
Ewing said Terry hadn't accomplished enough in 14 years in office to warrant another term. But Terry countered that it takes time to be in position to sponsor major legislation.
And now he contends he's finally there.
With his seniority, Terry expects to chair a subcommittee of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, which will give him more say over bills.
“When you look at moving up and making more of an impact, this is one of the steps you have to get to,” he said.
He's angling for the Communications and Technology Subcommittee. His top priority is finding ways to free up more broadband spectrum, which could let people download data faster.
“I know it's boring, but it's an important part of our economy,” Terry said Wednesday morning.
Terry, 50, was elected in 1998 after serving several years on the Omaha City Council.
Voters have consistently sent him back, but several of his recent campaigns have been competitive.
This year, Terry stumbled at key moments in this campaign — but Ewing did, too.
Terry maintained a 4-to-1 fundraising advantage, which allowed him to aggressively reach out to voters through television ads, mailers and phone calls.
It also helped insulate the congressman from his mistakes, most notably a television ad that inaccurately quoted a nonprofit advocacy group.
“I think we're going to take a hard look at this campaign,” he said Tuesday night.
Ewing, the Douglas County treasurer, was expected to be a serious challenger, but the Democrat's campaign faltered several times.
Perhaps the race's defining moment came after the May primary.
Ewing won — then promptly took a break from fundraising. He started up again at the end of June, but by the end of the fundraising quarter he'd only raised $300,000 to Terry's $1.3 million.
After that, Ewing didn't gain much traction nationally.
But when preliminary vote totals came in, Ewing was closer to toppling Terry than Jim Esch was in 2008. Esch received help from national Democrats, and he benefitted from President Barack Obama's strong push that year in the 2nd District.
If Ewing, 51, runs again, he could get more help than he had this year. But he didn't seem excited Tuesday night about the possibility of running again.
“My initial thought is no, to be perfectly honest,” Ewing said. “But I don't know if I can give you a complete answer on that.”
With his victory, Terry will become the Omaha area's longest-serving congressman. By the end of his new term, Terry will tie Virginia Smith for the honor of being Nebraska's third longest-serving congressman.
He'd be behind Doug Bereuter of the 1st District, who served for 25 years before retiring in 2004, and the former 6th District's Moses Kinkaid, who served 19 years until he died in 1922.
Had Ewing won, he would have been the district's first black congressman.
“This has been an awesome journey,” Ewing said Tuesday night. “I've grown tremendously. We were a small and mighty team. We fought hard for you.”
Nebraska's two other Republican House members, Adrian Smith and Jeff Fortenberry, won re-election handily.
Terry said the three House members, along with Sen.-elect Deb Fischer and Sen. Mike Johanns, work well together.
“D.C.'s a very political place, and if you turn your back on someone for very long, you get a knife in the back,” Terry said. “So we as a delegation kind of circle our major projects and don't let anyone get to them.”
World-Herald Staff Writer Erin Grace contributed to this article.
Contact the writer: 402-444-1084, email@example.com
LEE TERRY'S ACCEPTANCE SPEECHES
BREAKING DOWN THE VOTE
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