The relationship between Congressman Lee Terry and Douglas County Treasurer John Ewing goes back much farther than campaigning for Nebraska’s 2nd District House seat.
The two life-long Omahans attended Omaha Northwest High School at the same time. Both were also on the football team. Ewing as a player and Terry as equipment manager.
“I always say, [Ewing] was on the football team,” Terry said. “I was on the debate team.”
Terry visited with students in Richard Fellman’s Intro to American Government class in late October. His opponent, Ewing, spoke to the class earlier in the semester. Terry spoke to students about his background and some of the issues in his campaign.
Before serving in Congress, Terry was on the Omaha City Council. While on the council, he was a practicing lawyer.
Terry majored in political science at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.
“I took every government class,” Terry said. “I just had a real infatuation with American history and American government.”
His love for all things American history and government stemmed from his parents. His father, Lee Terry Sr., ran for Congress in 1976, losing to John Cavanaugh. It exposed Terry to a political process he grew to love.
Dinner table talk at the Terry household was always about politics.
“My dad always stressed that an elected office was just another way, an even more meaningful way, of participating in your community and giving back—truly the definition of public servant,” Terry said.
Terry was just 28 when he was elected to the Omaha City Council. Terry really wanted to make a difference, and found the only way to do that was by going to Washington, D.C.
The House system is based on seniority, Terry said. He serves on the Energy and Commerce Committee, one of the two top committees.
“People don’t even start learning your name in the House of Representatives until after about six years,” Terry said.
Terry is running for office again because he’s involved and cares about issues on the Energy and Commerce Committee.
“You really have to become married to that one committee and immerse yourself in the issues,” Terry said.
Terry chose to work on the committee because of personal interest and because of the district’s interests.
“I’ve learned, especially on energy issues, that it’s unfinished business,” Terry said. “I feel like the ‘94 Huskers. We’ve gotten close, but we haven’t gotten there yet.”
Terry believes using more natural gas found in the United States will keep money here and will put us in charge of our own economy.
Another issue Terry is working on is congressional spending. Republicans both deficit spend, he said.
“You need that type of mandatory discipline. We had it on the City Council,” Terry said. “If you wanted to increase spending somewhere, you either raise taxes or cut it somewhere else.”
A balanced budget will help the economy, Terry said.
“I just don’t have the confidence that Congress will ever balance their budget because there’s always an excuse,” Terry said.
Terry opposes tax hikes. He is a “limited government, lower tax person.” He envisions a tax code reform that is flat, simple and fair.
Terry gave students insight on his foreign policy stances, particularly with Iran. No time can be wasted between the time Iran says they have nuclear weapons and the use of those weapons, Terry said. Israel is our ally and we have to stand by them, he added.
“I don’t have a great deal of confidence that the sanctions are going to work, but you have to go through the process,” Terry said. “I hope they work.”
Students were also curious about Terry’s stance on healthcare. Terry is against the president’s “Obamacare” bill.
“I thought it was based on the wrong principles,” Terry said. “The principles of the bill were basically who’s going to control the healthcare dollar.”
Terry also talked about abortion. Abortion, like same-sex marriage, is a state issue, Terry said.
“One of my moral values growing up is that you help the most vulnerable and that’s the aged and the disabled,” Terry said. “I think the most vulnerable is the unborn.”
You can’t separate yourself from your morals, Terry said.
Terry is pro-life and if re-elected, would work to overturn Roe vs. Wade.
Terry also knows about the challenges of paying for college and finding a job after graduation.
“When I was graduating from college and law school, my fear was getting a job,” Terry said. “That’s the way I was going to pay off my student loans.”
Terry supports federal aid and the expansion of the loan program. He is rethinking his position on groups who say certain professions shouldn’t be required to pay back student loans.
As a parent with a senior in high school, Terry knows the costs of college tuition rates.
“Every time we’ve raised the loan amount and the pell grant amount, universities seem to raise tuition rates within hours,” Terry said. “Something’s got to stop. It’s getting out of control.”