LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — Nebraska's three Republican congressmen are seeking re-election in races that have focused on the economy, the nation's debt and partisanship.
Reps. Jeff Fortenberry and Adrian Smith are big favorites to win re-election on Nov. 6, reflecting their overwhelming victories in the past and the Republican dominance in their districts, which cover most of the state.
The vote will likely be closer in the 2nd Congressional District, where seven-term Rep. Lee Terry faces Douglas County Treasurer John Ewing.
Terry has repeatedly beat Democrats in the Omaha-centered district, and he got a boost before this election when Republican lawmakers redrew the district's boundaries to exclude Offutt Air Force Base and the city of Bellevue — an area with a significant minority population. They added in some Republican-heavy Sarpy County suburbs.
John Hibbing, a University of Nebraska at Omaha political science professor, said Democrats have a better chance in the 2nd district than elsewhere in Nebraska. But he notes that despite past optimism, Terry has ultimately prevailed.
"Every election, the Democrats think they have a chance at Terry, and they never do," Hibbing said.
Here is a summary of each race:
1st CONGRESSIONAL DISTRICT
Republican U.S. Rep. Jeff Fortenberry is an overwhelming favorite in his race for a fifth term in Congress representing the eastern Nebraska district.
Fortenberry won re-election in 2010 with 71 percent of the vote and easily defeated two challengers in the May Republican primary. He's now facing Democrat Korey Reiman, a Lincoln defense attorney.
The race has remained low-key, and there have been no debates.
Fortenberry has emphasized the need to reduce the nation's debt, and in an indication of his strong support, he asked anti-tax activist Grover Norquist to remove his name from the list of those who promise to never increase taxes. Most Republicans, including Nebraska U.S. Senate candidate Deb Fischer, have signed the pledge.
Fortenberry also has called repeatedly for Congress to seek consensus and approve a federal farm bill.
Reiman has focused on his upbringing on a southeast Nebraska farm and highlighted his work representing disabled veterans in court. He's called for reducing the deficit and control spending.
Fortenberry has raised much more campaign money and had $817,126 in cash-on-hand at the end of September. Reiman had $2,758 on-hand at the same reporting deadline, according to the Federal Election Commission.
The incumbent congressman has also spent time helping other candidates. Earlier this month, he traveled to Ohio to campaign for Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney.
2ND CONGRESSIONAL DISTRICT
Nebraska's Omaha-centered 2nd district usually is the only one where a Democrat is given any chance at winning a seat in Congress.
But for 14 years, Republican Lee Terry has held the district. As he seeks an eighth term against Democratic challenger John Ewing, Terry will benefit from redistricting, in which Nebraska legislators redrew the boundaries to give Republicans a larger advantage.
The race between Terry and Ewing, the Douglas County treasurer, has focused on spending.
Both candidates have gone on the offensive, with Terry criticizing Ewing for his support of allowing tax cuts backed by President George W. Bush to expire for the wealthiest Americans. Ewing has countered the Terry hasn't been honest with voters because he promised to cut federal spending but then supported Bush's tax cuts, wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and Medicare expansions without identifying a way to pay for the new expenses.
Lee has responded that taxpayer groups have given him stellar ratings for his efforts to reducing taxes.
Most recently, the campaigns have focused on inaccuracies in two of Terry's television campaign ads. One alleged Ewing overspent his budget as county treasurer, and another highlighted Terry's record on energy legislation.
The budget ad relied on incorrect numbers, while the energy ad falsely claimed that an energy bill Terry co-sponsored had become law. The measure actually stalled in committee, but portions were folded into another energy bill.
In a recent debate, Terry admitted that he "didn't check the fact-checkers" before signing off on the ads, but he stood behind the messages in both. His campaign retracted the ads, but maintained that the errors were technical.
Terry has outraised Ewing, but the gap is narrower than in Nebraska's other congressional races: Terry reported $276,312 in cash-on-hand at the end of the September, while Ewing had $136,997.
3rd CONGRESSIONAL DISTRICT
Republican U.S. Rep. Adrian Smith is looking to clinch a fifth term in Congress against a challenger who said he's running because he wants to overcome the intense partisanship in Washington.
Smith and Democratic hopeful Mark Sullivan are vying to represent a rural area that covers more than three-fourths of Nebraska — a land area the size of Wisconsin. The newly drawn district stretches roughly 350 miles from Wyoming to counties in eastern Nebraska.
Sullivan, who farms and runs a cattle feedlot, blames Democrats as well as Republicans for a failure to find compromise and solve problems in Washington. Sullivan said partisanship has stalled legislation that's crucial to the rural district, including the federal farm bill. Smith has said he was disappointed that the farm bill hasn't pass, but he blamed that largely on Democrats unwillingness to reduce food stamp benefits.
Smith had $754,101 in cash-on-hand at the end of the September. Sullivan had $2,480 at the end of June, and has not yet filed an updated report.
Smith won the 2010 general election with 70 percent of the vote.