Published December 20, 2015
Nebraska's three congressmen won their Republican primaries on Tuesday, including the senior member of the state's Washington delegation who fended off a tough nomination challenge for the fourth consecutive election year.
Rep. Lee Terry, who was first elected in 1998 to represent the Omaha area's 2nd District, survived arguably his toughest battle to date from a former supporter, Dan Frei.
In the Lincoln area's 1st District, Rep. Jeff Fortenberry handily defeated a challenge from two other Republicans -- Dennis Parker and Jessica Turek -- who have unsuccessfully run for the seat before and again garnered only a handful of votes. Fortenberry will face Democrat Dennis Crawford in November.
In the vast, rural 3rd District, Rep. Adrian Smith coasted to a win over challenger Tom Brewer, who served 36 years in the Nebraska Army National Guard, and has some name recognition, particularly among military service members and veterans. Brewer had raised only about $120,000, compared to $645,000 from the congressman.
Smith will face Democrat Mark Sullivan in the general election.
But heading into the election, Terry appeared the most vulnerable of the three incumbents.
Frei, who had argued the congressman isn't enough of a fiscal conservative, was among a group that helped lead an anti-incumbent faction that took control of the Douglas County GOP in 2012. He had opposed Terry since the Republican incumbent voted for President George W. Bush's $700 billion bank bailout in 2008, which many conservatives saw as a betrayal of the Republican Party's traditional stance of less federal government spending.
Frei's biggest hurdle in the race was a lack of money. He raised less than $45,000 by the end of April, leaving him unable to increase his name recognition through television advertising. By comparison, Terry raised nearly $1.5 million that he used to buy plenty of television ad space.
Some Republican voters in Omaha who voiced their frustration with Terry said they voted for him anyway.
"I would have liked to have voted for (Frei), but I didn't know anything about him," said Dave Persing, a retired IBM worker. "He hardly had any advertising."
Terry will face Democrat Brad Ashford, a state lawmaker from Omaha, in the general election. Ashford bested fellow Democrat and Omaha landscaper Mark Aupperle in the primary, who raised no money and did little campaigning. The winner of two Libertarian candidates, Andy Shambaugh and Steven Laird, also will advance.
Terry said Tuesday night he's not concerned about the strong showing by Frei.
"We won; that's the major issue," Terry said. "Now we look forward to November and defeating Brad Ashford."