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GOP Family Values Candidate: no pictures of gay son, or unwed daughter
Bradenton.com
In Senate race, family values campaign tested by real life
DAVID ROYSE
Associated Press
August 21, 2006

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - Randall Terry doesn't run away from "family values issues" in his state Senate race.

Among the conservative Christian's pledges are preserving traditional marriage and opposing gay adoptions. He has touted efforts to stop abortions. His campaign mailers sum up the value he puts on family: they show a picture with his wife, a daughter and three grinning young sons taken before a fourth was born this summer.

But Terry's adopted son Jamiel says the picture is missing two people: he and his sister Tila, also adopted. Both have been estranged from Terry since Jamiel came out as a gay man and Tila had a child out of wedlock.

Jamiel Terry said the self-image that his father is crafting and the campaign message about strong families ignores part of his own family history. He said voters have a right to know about that.

"He is very big on image," Jamiel Terry said. "In a large way Tila and I mess up that image."

Jamiel Terry, 26, said in interviews last week and Monday that voters in the northeast Florida district where his father is trying to unseat Sen. Jim King in the Republican primary should know more about the candidate's family.

Randall Terry said he's upfront about his whole family and has never tried to hide anything about his children, even those with whom he has deep disagreements. He said voters don't care anyway.

"I don't think it would affect one vote, one way or another. Everybody has problems in their family," said Terry, who founded Operation Rescue, an anti-abortion protest group.

He said voters care more about issues they deal with in their own lives, such as homeowners insurance, medical malpractice problems and property taxes.

The fact that he has two adopted children isn't news. Jamiel and Randall Terry's relationship has been the subject of a long article in The Washington Post and The Associated Press wrote a story when Jamiel went public with his homosexuality in Out Magazine in 2004.

"He was a good dad," Jamiel Terry said, but added that he wouldn't support his candidacy.

Randall Terry said he strongly disapproves of his son's homosexuality.

"But I'm absolutely not ashamed - I love him," he said. He said Jamiel Terry was smart - and said that by talking to a reporter Jamiel was simply trying to get at his father as part of their ongoing disagreement. But he said overall, "I'm very proud of him."

Jamiel Terry also said his father left Tila Terry to fend for herself when she was pregnant - a charge Randall Terry vehemently denies. He said he has tried to get his daughter into a program that helps unwed young mothers. She didn't return phone calls seeking comment.

Jamiel Terry said his father's policy ideas don't always fit his own behavior.

"He has tried to say abortion should not exist because families and churches should step in," Jamiel Terry said. "When his own daughter is pregnant, he refuses to help her."

Randall Terry and his first wife adopted them when Jamiel was 8 and Tila was 3. Terry has said publicly that some problems stem from the way the children were treated before they were adopted.

Terry persuaded a woman not to have an abortion in 1987. When the child - Tila - was born, Terry took care of her and then adopted her older brother Jamiel. They grew up with Randall Terry, who was famous as a leading religious conservative voice.

A spokeswoman for King, Terry's opponent, declined to comment on Terry's family.

Randall Terry said he tells anyone who asks that he has seven children, including Jamiel and Tila.

As for campaign literature that doesn't have them in the picture, Randall Terry said it's not because he is embarrassed.

"The reason we don't have a photo with Jamiel and Tila is that we haven't been in the same room with them in about three years," Randall Terry said.

That's the point, Jamiel Terry said. If a candidate is going to talk about strong families - he ought to talk about why his own family isn't, he said.

"Both Tila and I have tried to revive or rekindle our relationship with my father and we've been shut out," Jamiel Terry said. "So maybe if we had been invited for Christmas, Thanksgiving, birthdays, etc., we would be in a family photo."

Randall Terry denied that his son has tried to fix the relationship, accusing Jamiel of only wanting to hurt him. Jamiel Terry occasionally e-mails his father. Randall Terry said the e-mails simply are "vicious." Jamiel said he's only trying to reconnect.

ON THE NET

Terry campaign: http://www.randallterry.com

Project Vote-Smart's Terry page: http://www.vote-smart.org/bio.php?can_idMFL10498

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