Rep. Lee Terry reports strong period for donations - Omaha.com
Published Thursday, October 10, 2013 at 1:00 am / Updated at 9:04 am
Rep. Lee Terry reports strong period for donations

Republican Rep. Lee Terry's week hasn't been all bad.

The embattled congressman from Omaha reported a healthy fundraising quarter Wednesday, saying he had more than a half-million in the bank as of the end of September.

It was the biggest war chest Terry has amassed at this point in an election cycle — 13 months before the next election — since he first won his seat in Congress in 1998.

The fundraising numbers were released after a tough week of criticism over Terry's explanation of why he would not give up his paycheck during the federal government shutdown. Terry said he couldn't “handle it” with a child in college and a mortgage to pay on a “nice house.”

Terry apologized Sunday, saying that he was “ashamed” of his comments and that it did not reflect the “nature of his character.” He also reversed course and said he would not accept a paycheck until after the shutdown ended.

Terry's verbal misstep has had instant ramifications back home. Democrats are urging Omaha City Councilman Pete Festersen to reconsider his decision not to get into the race against Terry. Festersen has since left open the door for a possible run.

Also, on Wednesday, Republican Chip Maxwell said he would consider a primary challenge against Terry.

Maxwell, who is a former Douglas County Board member, said his decision was not motivated by Terry's paycheck controversy but rather by a “long-simmering” concern over the nation's fiscal policies.

Maxwell, who considers himself a Tea Party candidate, has flirted with a congressional run before. Last year, he issued a press release saying that if he sold 30,000 copies of a $10 book that he had written about the fiscal crisis, he would run in 2014.

Some Republicans said Maxwell would likely not be the last Republican to consider a primary challenge against Terry, who has faced such challenges in almost all of his re-election campaigns.

“I wouldn't be surprised if there are more,” said Scott Peterson, former chairman of the Douglas County Republican Party.

If Terry is challenged, he will have the support of some key party officials, including J.L. Spray, chairman of the Nebraska Republican Party, and Bryan Baumgart, chairman of the Douglas County Republican Party.

Spray said he believes most voters will accept Terry's apology and move on from the paycheck controversy.

“I want and expect him to run,” Spray said.

Baumgart issued similar words of support. “I'm behind Lee 100 percent,” he said.

Terry's campaign released his initial fundraising numbers Wednesday. In the third quarter of this year, Terry raised $389,000 and had $558,000 in the bank.

In comparison, in the third quarter of 2011, Terry held a $320,000 war chest.

The following year, Terry defeated four Republican challengers, winning 59 percent of the vote on primary night. He then went on to defeat Democrat John Ewing by 2 percentage points.

Contact the writer: Robynn Tysver

robynn.tysver@owh.com    |   402-444-1309    |  

Robynn is Omaha.com's elections writer. She's covered presidential politics in Iowa's caucuses, and gubernatorial and Senate races in Nebraska.

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