Terry and Ashford Square Off in Nebraska's 2nd District Race

Republican Lee Terry and Democrat Brad Ashford are the candidates running for Nebraska's 2nd Congressional District seat.
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September 5, 2014 - 6:30am

Congressman Lee Terry has been in office for 16 years, representing Nebraska’s second district. State legislator Brad Ashford is challenging Terry for the job. As part of our Campaign Connection 2014 coverage, NET News examines where the candidates stand on the issues shaping this race.

Watch video of the candidates below


In a non-descript office at the Nebraska Crossing Outlet Mall in Gretna, just outside of Omaha, Republican Congressman Lee Terry sat down with the mall’s corporate executives.

They talked about the mall’s marketing plans, and how to improve the local economy.

Terry said it’s an important conversation to have. As chairman of the Commerce, Manufacturing, and Trade sub-committee for the U.S. House of Representatives, Terry said he’s seen the country’s economy take a deep dive, especially the manufacturing industry.

“Those great middle-class jobs that have gone away over the last generation, or last decade or more, we can get those back,” Terry said, “but first we have to realize that energy is an issue. We want our energy to be reliable and affordable. That’s bringing back jobs right now. Our tax code is actually chasing jobs away right now.”

But the biggest single factor keeping people out of the workplace, according to Terry, is a skills gap.

"Many of our manufacturers that want to pay fifty, sixty, seventy-thousand dollars a year for an employee can’t find the person with the right skills," Terry said.  "So we really have to look at our education system. Do our high school graduates have the necessary skills if they don’t want to go to college to go into manufacturing and earn a nice middle-class wage?”

Terry’s opponent in the upcoming election, longtime Nebraska legislator Brad Ashford, a Democrat, said first we need to make sure everyone is paid a livable wage.

While shaking hands at Septemberfest in Omaha, Ashford said he agrees jobs are the biggest issue in this campaign, but he added you can’t talk about good jobs without talking about raising the minimum wage.

“We’ve got to start to bring people together on the wage scale and we have to start with the minimum wage because when we’re trying to lift people out of poverty, that $7.25 isn’t going to cut it," Ashford said. "They’re going to keep going back into poverty and back into social programs. We want to get people out of those programs and we want to get them working.”

Ashford has served in the Nebraska Legislature two different times for a total of 16 years. Term limits are forcing him to find a new job, but he said he’s not ready to call his political career over. He said after watching last year’s government shutdown, he knew his next destination.

“I think Congress is totally dysfunctional. Shutting the government down for 16 days which caused a furlough of federal employees and cost billions of dollars to the economy, that can’t happen. If you’re elected as a public servant, you can’t go on strike,” Ashford said.

When it comes to the Affordable Care Act, both Terry and Ashford agreed the law is unworkable in its current state. Terry said while he’s seen some people benefit from Obamacare, too many people are paying too much.

“We even tried making subtle changes and (U.S. Senate Majority Leader) Harry Reid will not let those go through and I think that’s an election year ploy. So maybe next year there will be a change in the Senate where the House and the Senate can work together,” Terry explained.

Ashford proposed breaking the law down into separate pieces.

“Whether it’s the cost issue, the insurance coverage issue, whether it’s Medicare—the bill is so big that the best way to make it work for all Americans is to break it down. We’ve had four years to do that, and Republicans won’t do it,” Ashford said.

On immigration, Terry said the U.S. needs to secure its borders first before any reform can be discussed, saying the crisis at the Mexican border proves how unsecure the nation really is.

Ashford called the current U.S. immigration policy “anti-child” and said the House should pass the Senate’s immigration reform bill, which he said would beef up border security and provide a parallel pathway to citizenship for some illegal immigrants.

On foreign affairs, Terry said the administration’s policies have isolated our foreign allies, and created a power void.

“I think we have an obligation to fill that void," Terry said.  "It doesn’t mean we go into countries with our military, but because we’ve backed off and now there’s a leadership void, you see it being filled by Putin right now.”

Terry said tougher economic sanctions should be levied against Putin, and the U.S. needs to be tougher globally. Something Ashford seemed to agree with.

“This is where I have issues with President Obama. I really feel he lacks decisiveness with dealing with Israel. He lacks decisiveness in dealing with the problems with ISIS. I think we need to build a coalition, and in some ways this coalition is going to bring people together that generally aren’t in the same group,” Ashford said, “That takes decisive leadership and I think the president needs to buck up on this. He’s not leading right now and that’s not helping.”

Both Lee Terry and Brad Ashford touted their long careers of working with people across the aisle to get things done. Terry said he’s currently working with Democrats on two bills—one about data security, the other about patents. If re-elected, Terry said he’ll talk more about those next year.

Ashford said if he’s elected, he’ll find 25 friends from both sides of the aisle on his first day in office and form a coalition, what he’s calling his unicameral promise, to show people from both sides of the political spectrum can work together.

In November, the voters will decide which man gets the chance to keep his word.

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