Terry R. Spence

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Terry R. Spence
Speaker of the Delaware House of Representatives
In office
1987–2008
Preceded by B. Bradford Barnes
Succeeded by Robert Gilligan
Member of the Delaware House of Representatives
from the 18th district
In office
1981–2008
Preceded by John P. Ferguson
Succeeded by Michael A. Barbieri
Personal details
Born (1941-11-30) November 30, 1941 (age 72)
Wilmington, Delaware
Political party Republican
Spouse(s) Nancy
Residence New Castle, Delaware
Religion Roman Catholic

Terry R. Spence (born November 30, 1941) is a United States statesman and politician from New Castle, in New Castle County, Delaware. He is a member of the Republican Party, who served in the Delaware General Assembly as Speaker of the Delaware House of Representatives. He was defeated in the 2008 election by Democrat Michael A. Barbieri. Though he ran again for his old seat in 2010, he was defeated by the incumbent Representative, Michael Barbieri.

Early life and family[edit]

Spence was born in Wilmington, Delaware and grew up in New Castle, Delaware. His father, Ernest S. Spence, Jr., was a state trooper and a candidate for the 6th district seat on the New Castle County Council in 1972.

Spence received an Associate’s degree in business from Goldey-Beacom College and later a Bachelor’s degree from Wilmington University. He is now a lobbyist with few accounts. Spence also served in the Delaware Air National Guard. He and his wife Nancy have four children, Terry, Greg, Mark, and Laura. They live in Stratford, near New Castle. His sons Greg and Mark followed in his father's footsteps by becoming Delaware State Troopers.

State representative[edit]

The 18th State House District is a suburban and commercial area of central New Castle County that includes such landmarks as the historic village of Christiana, Christiana Mall, and Christiana Hospital. It stretches from, but does not include, Delaware Park and the New Castle Airport on the north, to the Governor's Square Shopping Center at Bear in the south. It has a mixture of older and newer residential developments, apartments, and shopping areas. The resident population is mixed in age, and middle income blue collar. It normally votes strongly Democratic.

Upon the retirement of four-term Democratic State Representative John P. Ferguson in 1980, Spence ran as a Republican for Ferguson’s seat in the 20th Representative District. Despite the district’s Democratic leaning, the nationwide Republican tide led by presidential candidate Ronald Reagan helped propel Spence to a six-point victory over Democrat John Zimath at the polls. In 1982, redistricting caused by the United States Census changed Spence’s district number from 20 to 18. Spence was re-elected to the House over Democrat Ronald Queen with 62.5% of the vote. In the following two elections, Spence overwhelmingly defeated his Democratic challengers by increasingly large margins and has represented the 18th district ever since. Spence has been unopposed in seven of his thirteen reelection campaigns. When opposed for reelection, he routinely won by large margins. In 1994, he garnered 71.4% of the vote in his race against Susan Mangini. In 2000, he defeated Frances Anglin by 17 points.

In the 2006 election, Spence faced the toughest reelection campaign of his career. Spence’s district had become increasingly Democratic. By then, 49% of the district’s registered voters were Democrats, while only 26% registered as Republicans. [1] Furthermore, the unpopularity of Republican President George W. Bush was fermenting into a strong Democratic showing in the general elections. Viewing Spence as vulnerable under these conditions, the state Democratic Party recruited union activist and behavioral health professional Mike Barbieri to run against Spence. It was Spence’s closest race since his first in 1980, but he still defeated Barbieri by over 12 points. On March 7, 2008, Barbieri registered to oppose Spence again in the 2008 election, this time winning the election by 12 points. On April 27, 2010, Spence registered to oppose Barbieri in the 2010 election.

Though a social conservative, Spence’s representation of his middle class district often put him at odds with other Republican Party leaders and the numerous corporate interests in the state. In 1999, Spence supported Democratic State Senator Robert Marshall’s bill to increase Delaware’s minimum wage by $0.50 per hour. Opposed were not only much of the state’s Republican leadership, but also Democratic Governor Thomas R. Carper.

Prominent legislation sponsored by Spence include laws to give life sentences to sexual predators, sentence certain drug offenders to rehabilitation instead of prison, and require drivers convicted of DUI to have interlock devices installed in their cars. Spence also proposed controversial and ultimately unsuccessful legislation to expand the number of seats in the State House after the 2000 Census and suspend the state fuel tax during the summer of 2006.

Spence served on the following committees:

  • Ethics
  • Homeland Security
  • House Administration
  • House Rules
  • Labor
  • Legislative Council
  • Veterans Affairs

Speaker of the House[edit]

In 1987, the Republicans in the State House elected B. Bradford Barnes of Bridgeville Speaker. However, Barnes died in office shortly thereafter. Spence, who had entered the State House in the same year as Barnes, was then selected to succeed Barnes as Speaker. He has served in that capacity ever since, and is the longest serving Speaker of the House in the history of the Delaware General Assembly. He has also held the position of Speaker longer than any current Speaker of any state legislature in the United States.

In 2006, Spence and Majority Leader Wayne Smith were opposed for their leadership positions in the Republican Caucus by Joseph W. Booth and Richard C. Cathcart, respectively. However, Republicans in the Delaware State House retained their majority and lost only two seats in the 2006 elections that saw multiple Republican losses throughout the country. House Republicans elected to stay with the leadership that had led them through the tumultuous election. After being re-elected Speaker, Spence, rather than punishing Booth and Cathcart, appointed both to the powerful Appropriations and Joint Finance committees.

2000 gubernatorial race[edit]

In 1991 and 1995, Spence explored the possibility of running for Governor in the elections of the following years, but in both cases opted not to challenge popular Democrat Tom Carper. Due to this, Celia Cohen, in her book Only in Delaware, referred to Spence as the "odd numbered year candidate."

In 2000, however, Spence decided to run for Governor and entered the Republican gubernatorial primary. Unfortunately, Spence’s past record of support for labor worked against him as the support of the party’s hierarchy and the state’s business leaders quickly coalesced around Chairman of the state Chamber of Commerce and former State House Majority Leader John M. Burris. Due to an inability to raise campaign funds, Spence withdrew from the race before the September primary election in order to run for reelection to the House. Spence endorsed Burris, the eventual Republican nominee, who went on to lose the general election to then Lieutenant Governor Ruth Ann Minner.

Public offices[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by
John P. Ferguson
Delaware State Representative,
District 20

January 13, 1981–January 11, 1983
Succeeded by
Roger P. Roy
Preceded by
Richard C. Cathcart
Delaware State Representative,
District 18

January 11, 1983–2009
Succeeded by
Michael A. Barbieri
Preceded by
B. Bradford Barnes
Speaker of the House,
Delaware General Assembly

July 19, 1987–2009
Succeeded by
Robert Gilligan

Elections are held the first Tuesday after November 1. Members of the Delaware General Assembly take office the second Tuesday of January. The State House has a term of two years.

Office Type Location Elected Took Office Left Office notes
State House Legislature Dover 1980 January 13, 1981 January 11, 1983
State House Legislature Dover 1982 January 11, 1983 January 15, 1985
State House Legislature Dover 1984 January 15, 1985 January 13, 1987
State House Legislature Dover 1986 January 13, 1987 January 10, 1989
State House Legislature Dover 1988 January 10, 1989 January 8, 1991
State House Legislature Dover 1990 January 8, 1991 January 12, 1993
State House Legislature Dover 1992 January 12, 1993 January 10, 1995
State House Legislature Dover 1994 January 10, 1995 January 14, 1997
State House Legislature Dover 1996 January 14, 1997 January 12, 1999
State House Legislature Dover 1998 January 12, 1999 January 9, 2001
State House Legislature Dover 2000 January 9, 2001 January 14, 2003
State House Legislature Dover 2002 January 14, 2003 January 11, 2005
State House Legislature Dover 2004 January 11, 2005 January 9, 2007
State House Legislature Dover 2006 January 9, 2007 January 13, 2009

Election results[edit]

Year Office Election Subject Party Votes % Opponent Party Votes %
1980 Delaware State Representative, District 20 General Terry R. Spence Republican 3,035 53.1% John H. Zimath Democratic 2,683 46.9%
1982 Delaware State Representative, District 18 General Terry R. Spence Republican 2,485 62.5% Ronald E. Queen Democratic 1,488 37.5%
1984 Delaware State Representative, District 18 General Terry R. Spence Republican 4,082 73.7% Samuel R. Richeon Democratic 1,453 26.3%
1986 Delaware State Representative, District 18 General Terry R. Spence Republican 2,290 77.2% William H. Hartzel Democratic 676 22.8%
1988 Delaware State Representative, District 18 General Terry R. Spence Republican 3,797 100% unopposed unopposed unopposed unopposed
1990 Delaware State Representative, District 18 General Terry R. Spence Republican 2,468 100% unopposed unopposed unopposed unopposed
1992 Delaware State Representative, District 18 General Terry R. Spence Republican 4,484 100% unopposed unopposed unopposed unopposed
1994 Delaware State Representative, District 18 General Terry R. Spence Republican 2,718 71.4% Susan N. Mangini Democratic 1,088 28.6%
1996 Delaware State Representative, District 18 General Terry R. Spence Republican 4,551 100% unopposed unopposed unopposed unopposed
1998 Delaware State Representative, District 18 General Terry R. Spence Republican 2,245 100% unopposed unopposed unopposed unopposed
2000 Delaware State Representative, District 18 General Terry R. Spence Republican 3,931 58.2% Frances Anglin Democratic 2,823 41.8%
2002 Delaware State Representative, District 18 General Terry R. Spence Republican 3,221 100% unopposed unopposed unopposed unopposed
2004 Delaware State Representative, District 18 General Terry R. Spence Republican 5,118 100% unopposed unopposed unopposed unopposed
2006 Delaware State Representative, District 18 General Terry R. Spence Republican 2,724 56.2 Michael A. Barbieri Democratic 2,083 43.8%
2008 Delaware State Representative, District 18 General Terry R. Spence Republican 3,760 46.9 Michael A. Barbieri Democratic 4,164 52.0%
2010 Delaware State Representative, District 18 General Terry R. Spence Republican 2,766 47.0 Michael A. Barbieri Democratic 3,115 53.0%

Results provided by the Delaware Department of Elections

References[edit]

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