Published Tuesday
October 15,テつ*2002

Terry, Simon battle in debate


Lee Terry for Congress

Jim Simon for Congress

Republican Lee Terry and Democrat Jim Simon proved in their first face-to-face meeting that 2nd Congressional District voters have a real choice on Nov. 5.

The spirited hour-long debate provoked clashes between the two on nearly every subject from abortion to whether Terry, the two term incumbent, represents his district or his party.
Jim Simon, left, and Lee Terry at Monday's debate.

Simon came out aggressively in attacking Terry's vote against an aid package for Afghanistan and never let up.

Terry fended Simon off on two occasions, referring to interruptions as "rude." The rebuke drew a rare apology from Simon.

The debate at the Omaha Press Club became most intense when the positions on abortion extended to embryo stem cell research. Terry described himself as "pro-life" and Simon said he supports "reproductive rights."

Terry said his anti-abortion viewpoint extends to embryo stem cell medical research.

"I believe life of a human being begins at conception or inception," Terry said. "Whether you created an embryo in a petri dish or through natural means, the use of embryonic stem cells - to kill a fetus - for medical research, to me, is ethically wrong."

Simon said Terry's ethics are misdirected.

"I can't look somebody with juvenile diabetes or Parkinson's Disease in the eye and say, 'we have the opportunity to cure this disease but I won't allow it to happen.'"

In the end, Simon said, Terry's position would merely shut down promising research at the University of Nebraska Medical Center and other American institutions and transfer the technology to other countries.

Adult stem cells offer many possibilities, Terry said, and he fully supports additional funding for cures that do not use embryonic cells.

After agreeing that both are looking for ways to prevent unwanted pregnancies, Simon asked Terry, "Are you against abortion even in such cases where a woman has been raped or been a victim of incest or the life of a wife or mother is threatened?"

"I am pro-life with the exception of the life of the mother," Terry said. The mixed emotions in the other cases are understandable, Terry said.

Simon: "So you would deny a woman who is a victim of rape."

Terry: "My focus is to protect that life and hope that life can be placed in a very loving family situation."

The two also went back and forth on prescription drug benefits and Social Security.

Terry said the bill he supports for prescription drug benefits is affordable and will help people. Market forces and companies such as Mutual of Omaha are best equipped to manage a system similar to Medigap insurance programs for those on Medicare, he said.

The Medicare system needs to be used to provide the benefits, Simon said. The Terry backed proposal "is an election-year gimmick" with no guarantees of affordable rates, he said.

Terry grew offended when Simon again accused him of supporting the big drug companies because of campaign contributions. About 1 percent of his campaign support come from the drug companies, Terry said, compared to Simon's 26 percent from labor organizations.

On Social Security, Simon said, Terry has supported privatizing the system. With the recent turmoil in the stock market, putting even a portion of a workers payroll tax in a personal fund instead of the Social Security fund is risky, he said.

Doing nothing is the most risky, Terry said. A solution to the long-term financial stability of Social Security needs to be found within the next eight years, he said.

The two also had opposite positions on the need for additional tax cuts.

"I think it is irresponsible to be talking about a tax cut when we are on the verge of going to war," Simon said. "We could be days from going to war. It's going to cost us billions of dollars a day and you want to talk about a new tax cut?"

"Absolutely," Terry said. "I think it helps stimulate our economy."

The aggressiveness by the Simon, making his first run for public office, came as no surprise, Terry said.

The debate sponsored by the League of Women Voters, Omaha Press Club and KKAR was limited to the two major party candidates. Neither the Libertarian nor Green Party candidates were invited.

Doug Paterson, the Green Party candidate and University of Nebraska at Omaha theater professor, scored the debate for Simon. Had he participated, instead of sitting in the audience, Paterson said, he would have given voters a choice of a candidate who opposes any military action against Iraq.