Republican U.S. Rep. Lee Terry may start his re-election fight as the underdog against Democrat Pete Festersen, according to a poll commissioned by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.
The poll, which was taken during the height of voters' frustration with Congress and the partial federal shutdown, showed Festersen with a 2 percentage point advantage over Terry.
The results: Festersen 44 percent, Terry 42 percent and 14 percent undecided.
Larry Farnsworth, a spokesman for Terry, questioned the timing of the poll.
“They polled at the lowest possible point for House Republicans and for Congressman Terry. Any pollster worth their weight in salt will tell you that is the worst possible time to get accurate data,” said Farnsworth.
Festersen, who is president of the Omaha City Council, announced Sunday he would try to unseat Terry, an eight-term congressman. The DCCC had aggressively recruited Festersen to run against Terry.
He knew about the poll before he entered the race, but he said it was not a deciding factor.
“I was aware of it, but it simply reflected what I was already hearing from voters frustrated with the shutdown, wanting change and encouraging me to run,” Festersen said.
The poll was taken Oct. 5, during the partial shutdown, when many people were voicing anger with Congress. In fact, the poll showed 59 percent of voters surveyed disapproved of the shutdown.
It also was taken a day after a political firestorm erupted over remarks Terry made about his congressional pay. Terry angered many when he said he would not delay his congressional paycheck during the federal shutdown because he needed his salary to pay for a “nice home” and a child in college. He later apologized for those remarks, saying he was “ashamed.”
The poll, which surveyed 523 likely voters, had a margin of error of plus or minus 4.3 percentage points.
It was an automated telephone survey and included 48 percent Republicans, 35 percent Democrats and 17 percent independents, according to the DCCC.
In off-year election cycles, Republicans typically vote at a higher percentage than Democrats or independents in the Omaha-based 2nd Congressional District.
In addition, there are more Republicans in the district, based on recent voter information: 40 percent of registered voters in the district are Republican, 36 percent are Democrat and 23 percent are independent.
Terry's biggest problem may be among independent voters. According to the poll, only 28 percent of independent voters surveyed said they would vote for Terry.