|Member of the U.S. House of Representatives|
from Nebraska's 2nd district
January 3, 1999 - January 3, 2015
Lee Raymond Terry
January 29, 1962
Omaha, Nebraska, U.S.
|Alma mater||University of Nebraska-Lincoln|
Creighton University School of Law
Lee Raymond Terry (born January 29, 1962) is a former American politician and a senior law firm adviser. From 1999 to 2015, he served as a member of the U.S. House of Representatives for Nebraska's 2nd congressional district as a member of the Republican Party. Since 2015, Terry reactivated his law license and is a senior adviser to the government relations and public group for the international law firm Kelley Drye & Warren.
Terry was born in Omaha, Nebraska, the son of Mary Chalone (née Courtney) and Leland Roy Terry. He graduated from Omaha Northwest High School. He then attended the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. He received his J.D. from Creighton University School of Law in 1987. He worked as a private practice attorney specializing in civil matters before entering politics. He was a member of the Omaha City Council from 1991 to 1998, and served for two years as president and another two years as vice president of the body. While on the city council, Terry advocated using private-public partnerships as a way to lower taxation within Omaha.
In 1998, incumbent Republican Representative Jon Lynn Christensen retired to run for governor of Nebraska. Terry ran to succeed him, winning the Republican primary with a plurality, 40%, in a three-way race. Attorney Steve Kupka came second with 30%, businessman Brad Kuiper came third with 27% and three other candidates took the remaining 4%. In the general election, Terry defeated Democratic nominee Michael Scott, a television anchor, 67% to 34%.
In 2000, Terry defeated Democratic State Senator Shelley Kiel, 66% to 31%. In 2002, he defeated Democratic businessman Jim Simon, 63% to 33%. In 2004, he defeated Democratic State Senator Nancy Thompson, 61% to 36%.
In 2006, he faced his first primary contest since 1998, defeating Steven Laird, who had run against Terry in 1998 and taken 1% in the primary. Terry defeated him again, 84% to 16%. In the general election, Lee faced Democratic businessman Jim Esch. In an election that saw Democrats make sweeping gains and retake control of the House after 12 years of a Republican majority, Terry defeated Esch by just 55% to 45%.
In 2008, Terry faced another primary challenge from Steven Laird, defeating him by 84% to 16%. He also faced a rematch in the general election against Jim Esch. The election was concurrent with the 2008 presidential election. Nebraska is one of two states that uses the Congressional District Method in presidential elections: the winner of the statewide popular vote receives two electoral votes and the winner in each congressional district receives one vote. The Democratic nominee, Barack Obama, therefore targeted the district in case the Electoral College was otherwise tied. That effort made Terry even more vulnerable. CQ Politics forecast the race as 'Leans Republican', The Cook Political Report ranked it 'Republican Toss-Up' and The Rothenberg Political Report rated it 'Toss-Up/Tilt Democratic'. In response, Terry appealed to Obama supporters, dubbing them "Obama-Terry voters", and emphasizing that he would work with Obama if he won the election. National Committees and outside groups spent millions of dollars on the race and Terry's supporters tried to paint Esch as a "liberal", a supporter of gay marriage and insufficiently pro-life. Ultimately, Terry was reelected by just 52% to 48%.
In 2010, Terry faced another primary challenge, this one from Matt Sakalosky, a Tea Party challenger who accused Terry of being "insufficiently conservative". Terry refused to debate him and Sakalosky struggled to raise money but ended up taking 37% of the vote to Terry's 63%. In the general election, Esch declined to seek another rematch with Terry and so he faced Democratic State Senator Tom White. In a year that saw the Republicans make widespread gains and retake the House, Terry defeated White 61% to 39%.
Terry was considered a potential candidate for the United States Senate in 2012 but declined to run, instead seeking an eighth House term. In the primary, he emerged victorious with 59% of the vote. The anti-Terry vote was split between former University of Nebraska football player Brett Lindstrom, who took 23%, and University of Nebraska professor Jack Heidel, with 11%. Glenn Freeman and Paul Anderson took 4% and 2% respectively. After redistricting following the 2010 United States Census, Nebraska Republicans redrew the state's congressional map and made the 2nd district more Republican, so Obama's reelection campaign did not target the district as heavily as in 2008.Polling showed that Obama was still competitive in the district; he ultimately lost it, 53% to 46%. In the congressional election, Terry faced Democrat John Ewing, the Douglas County Treasurer. Terry outspent Ewing four to one and Ewing, who received no help from national Democrats, outperformed Obama and lost by just 51% to 49%.
Terry defeated businessman Dan Frei in the primary by just under 6% of the votes, after outspending Frei by around 20 to 1 in the primary campaign. State Senator Brad Ashford defeated Terry in the general election, 49% to 46%. Terry was one of only two incumbent House Republicans to lose their seat in the general election that year, the other being Steve Southerland of Florida.
When Terry first ran for Congress in 1998, he signed a pledge sponsored by Americans for Limited Government to limit himself to three terms in office. After winning the primary and general elections, Terry reneged on his promise, saying that he had signed the pledge because "term limits is an important issue and that was the way I wanted to signify my dedication to the issue." He ended up serving eight terms in the House.
On May 10, 2006, Terry appeared on the Better Know a District segment of the satirical news program The Colbert Report. He expressed his longtime support for alternative energy, specifically advocating the development of a hydrogen economy. Terry later teamed up with Stephen Colbert to submit an op-ed to the Los Angeles Times.
Terry is a staunch advocate of federal prohibition of online poker. In 2006, he cosponsored H.R. 4777, the Internet Gambling Prohibition and Enforcement Act, and H.R. 4411, the Goodlatte-Leach Internet Gambling Prohibition Act. Poker rights blogger Rich Muny, a board member of the Poker Players Alliance, rated Terry "F" on support for poker rights. Muny also included him on his "Leach List"--a list of anti-poker Representatives who are projected to be in tough reelection fights in 2008 (named for former Rep. Jim Leach (R-IA), sponsor of numerous efforts to ban online poker).
In 2009, Terry was named one of the most bipartisan members of the House of Representatives by The Hill and was named a "heavyweight" in telecommunications and media policy in the 111th Congress.
While running for reelection in 2010, Terry, who had previously been a strong supporter of privatizing Social Security, came out against it. He signed a pledge that he would "oppose any effort to privatize Social Security, in whole or in part."
Terry was initially a co-sponsor and supporter of the Stop Online Piracy Act. Under pressure from internet campaigns, he later rescinded his support for the bill. Terry voted in favor of the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA), a bill often compared to SOPA by its critics.
During the United States federal government shutdown of 2013, Terry refused to give up his salary. He was asked if he would continue to collect his paychecks and replied, "dang straight". He said that he needed his paycheck to pay for his "nice house" and his child's college education, adding that "we cannot handle it. Giving our paycheck away when you still worked and earned it? That's just not going to fly." He later apologized for the statement and said he would put his salary on hold. Terry voted to pass a clean CR and end the government shutdown.