In one of the most unexpected primary results Tuesday night, Republican Rep. Lee Terry of Nebraska narrowly avoided defeat at the hands of an under-financed, tea party-backed insurgent.
GOP activists in Nebraska's 2nd Congressional District, encompassing Omaha, told Newsmax that Terry's unusually close — 53 percent to 47 percent — win over businessman and first-time candidate Dan Frei was the latest effort of tea partiers to control the local Republican Party.
"The tea party and the Ron Paul libertarians have been in a struggle against more established conservatives for several years," said former Omaha Mayor Hal Daub, who held the 2nd District seat from 1981 to 1989. Daub noted that Terry has been challenged for renomination in three straight primaries, despite a conservative voting record.
An eight-term congressman and senior member of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, Terry, 52, has been one of the leaders of the effort to build the Keystone XL pipeline, and he supports the move to "repeal and replace" Obamacare. Strongly pro-life, Terry once told this reporter: "I love the social issues."
In 2010, a tea party-backed opponent to Terry drew 37 percent of the vote, and in 2012, a challenger rolled up 40 percent against him.
With the results nearly final early Wednesday, Terry edged businessman Frei by about 3,000 votes out of more than 47,000 votes cast.
The latest anti-Terry vote was especially surprising, since Terry spent nearly $900,000 to Frei's $45,000. In the primary race, Frei slammed the incumbent as part of the Washington establishment and as a supporter of "amnesty" for illegal immigrants.
Terry and his campaign think the continued challenges he faced in the Republican primary are the reason he can expect a difficult race in November in a district that has been in GOP hands for 20 years.
Two years ago, the congressman was re-elected by 2 percentage points. This fall, he faces a strong challenge from state Sen. Brad Ashford, a Republican-turned-Democrat.
John Gizzi is chief political columnist and White House correspondent for Newsmax.
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