Harry Reid, U.S. Senator

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Harry Mason Reid

Birthplace: Searchlight, Clark, Nevada, United States
Immediate Family:

Son of Harry Vincent Reid and Inez Orena Reid
Husband of Private
Father of Private; Private; Private; Private and Private
Brother of Private; Dale Reid (Garner) and Private

Managed by: Gene Daniell
Last Updated:
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Immediate Family

About Harry Reid, U.S. Senator


Harry Mason Reid (born December 2, 1939) is the senior United States Senator from Nevada, serving since 1987. A member of the Democratic Party, he has been the Senate Majority Leader since January 2007, having previously served as Minority Leader and Minority and Majority Whip.

Previously, Reid was a member of the U.S. House of Representatives, representing Nevada's 1st congressional district, and served in Nevada local and state government as city attorney of Henderson, a state legislator, the 25th Lieutenant Governor, and chairman of the Nevada Gaming Commission.

Early life, education, and early career

Reid was born in Searchlight, Nevada, the third of the four sons of Inez Orena (née Jaynes), a laundress, and Harry Vincent Reid, a miner. His paternal grandmother was an English immigrant from Darlston, Staffordshire. Reid's boyhood home had no indoor toilet, hot water or telephone. Searchlight had no high school, so Reid boarded with relatives 40 miles away in Henderson, Nevada to attend Basic High School where he played football, and was an amateur boxer. While at Basic High he met future Nevada governor Mike O'Callaghan, who was a teacher there. Reid attended Southern Utah University and graduated from Utah State University. He then went to George Washington University Law School earning a J.D. while working for the United States Capitol Police.

Early political career

Further information: Electoral history of Harry Reid http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Electoral_history_of_Harry_Reid

State politics

He returned to Nevada after law school and served as Henderson city attorney before being elected to the Nevada Assembly in 1968. In 1970, at age 30, Reid was chosen by O'Callaghan as his running mate for Lieutenant Governor of Nevada. Reid and his mentor O'Callaghan won the race and Reid served as lieutenant governor from 1971 until 1974, when he ran for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Alan Bible. He lost by fewer than 600 votes to former Governor Paul Laxalt. In 1975, Reid ran for mayor of Las Vegas and lost to Bill Briare.

Reid served as chairman of the Nevada Gaming Commission from 1977 to 1981. When Jack Gordon, LaToya Jackson's future agent and husband, offered Reid a $12,000 bribe to approve new games for casinos, Reid brought in the FBI to tape Gordon's bribery attempt and arrest him. After FBI agents interrupted the transaction as prearranged, Reid lost his temper and began choking Gordon, saying "You son of a bitch, you tried to bribe me!" Gordon was convicted in 1979 and sentenced to six months in prison. In 1981, Reid's wife found a bomb attached to the family station wagon; Reid suspected it was placed by Gordon.

U.S. Representative

Prior to the 1980 Census, Nevada had only a single at-large member in the United States House of Representatives, but population growth in the 1970s resulted in the state picking up a second district. Reid won the Democratic nomination for the 1st district, based in Las Vegas, in 1982, and easily won the general election. He served two terms in the House, from 1983 to 1987.

U.S. Senate


In 1986, Reid won the Democratic nomination for the seat of retiring two-term incumbent Republican Senator Paul Laxalt. He defeated former at-large Congressman Jim Santini, a Democrat who had turned Republican, in the November election. He coasted to reelection in 1992. However, he barely defeated 1st District Congressman John Ensign in 1998 in the midst of a statewide Republican sweep.

In 2004, Reid won reelection with 61 percent of the vote, gaining the endorsement of several Republicans.

Ensign was elected to Nevada's other Senate seat in 2000. He and Reid have a very good relationship, despite their bruising contest in 1998. The two frequently worked together on Nevada issues.

While Reid won the Democratic nomination with 75% of the vote in the June 8 primary, he faced a competitive general election for the 2010 Senate race in Nevada. Reid engaged in a $1 million media campaign to "reintroduce himself" to Nevada's voters. He defeated Republican challenger Sharron Angle in the general election.


From 1999 to 2005, Reid served as Senate Democratic Whip, as minority whip from 1999 to 2001 and again from 2003 to 2005, then as majority whip from 2001 to 2003 (except for a brief period from January–May 2001). From 2001 to 2003, he served as chairman of the Senate Ethics Committee.

Reid succeeded Tom Daschle as minority leader in 2005 and became majority leader after the 2006 elections. He was re-elected majority leader without opposition by the Democratic caucus on November 18, 2008, winning all 57 votes.

Committee assignments

Select Committee on Intelligence (Ex officio)

Political positions

Main article: Political positions of Harry Reid http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Political_positions_of_Harry_Reid

Reid has scored a lifetime conservative rating of 19% from the American Conservative Union (ACU), and a 2008 liberal rating of 70% from the Americans for Democratic Action (ADA). Other independent ratings include a 29% rating in 2003 from NARAL, the abortion pro-choice group, and a 57% rating from Planned Parenthood in 2006.

Reid has spearheaded several initiatives while in Congress. In 2006, Reid co-sponsored the "Prevention First Amendment" with Hillary Clinton, which would fund abortion prevention efforts, such as giving women broader access to contraception; however the bill faced Republican opposition and failed. In January 2007, Reid brought a Senate ethics reform bill to a vote to bar congressional members from accepting gifts, meals, and trips from lobbyists and organizations employing them, as well as barring Senators from borrowing corporate jets for travel and compelling them to disclose the names of sponsors, or authors, of bills and specific projects. The bill passed 96–2. In the 111th Congress, Reid shepherded the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act through the Senate.

Regarding specific issues, Reid believes that Roe vs. Wade should be overturned and in 1999, he voted against an amendment that explicitly expressed support for Roe v. Wade. He has stated that he believes in a restricted right to abortion, stating that "abortions should be legal only when the pregnancy resulted from incest, rape, or when the life of the woman is endangered." He has also voted several times to ban the "intact dilation and evacuation" or "partial-birth abortion" procedure. Reid has supported embryonic stem cell research.

Regarding same-sex marriage, Reid has stated he believes "...marriage should be between a man and a woman." He voted in favor of the Defense of Marriage Act but against the Federal Marriage Amendment.

In regard to local issues, Reid has firmly opposed the proposed Yucca Mountain federal nuclear waste repository in Nevada. Reid has opposed the legalization of online poker in the past, but has more recently changed his position, a move that some have argued was influenced by "the hundreds of thousands of dollars Las Vegas casinos contributed to his re-election campaign".

Reid called immigration reform one of his top priorities for the 110th Congress. He supports the DREAM Act the (Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act), which would allow certain U.S. high school grads who had arrived in the U.S. illegally as children, conditional legal status so they could attend college or enlist in the military. They could then obtain permanent legal residency after completing two years of military service or two years of college.[20] In June 2009, Reid announced his intention to enact a new guest worker program as part of a comprehensive immigration reform bill.

Reid has supported the use of force in the Middle East but in September 2007 he called for a drastic change in strategy.[citation needed] In January 1991 he voted to authorize the first Gulf War. Quoting John F. Kennedy's 1963 State of the Union speech on the Senate floor, saying "the mere absence of war is not Peace." He also voted in support of the 2003 invasion of Iraq. In March 2007 he voted in favor of "redeploying U.S. troops out of Iraq by March 2008", and later that year, he said, "As long as we follow [President Bush's] path in Iraq, the war is lost."

Reid has also advocated the outlawing of prostitution in Nevada, an unpopular position within the state.


Over the years Reid has been criticized at times by both sides of the political aisle. Liberal critics have argued that Reid was not doing enough to end the American military presence in Iraq, and that he allowed Senate Republicans to create a 60-vote bar for passage of bills without a Democratic fillibuster.

Reid has also been criticized for several potentially self-enriching tactics. In 2005, Reid earmarked a spending bill to provide for building a bridge between Nevada and Arizona that would make land he owned more valuable. Reid called funding for construction of a bridge over the Colorado River, among other projects, "incredibly good news for Nevada" in a news release after passage of the 2005 transportation bill. He owned 160 acres (65 ha) of land several miles from the proposed bridge site in Arizona. The bridge could add value to his real estate investment. A year later it was reported that Reid had used campaign donations to pay for $3,300 in Christmas gifts to the staff at the condominium where he resides; federal election law prohibits candidates from using political donations for personal use. Reid's staff stated that his attorneys had approved use of the funds in this manner, but that he nonetheless would personally reimburse his campaign for the expenses. Those reports notwithstanding, the conservative group Citizens United announced it had filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission to investigate the matter.

A series of investigative reports in the Los Angeles Times suggested that Reid had introduced legislation and imposed pressure on regulatory agencies to advance the business interests of his close friend Harvey Whittemore, a Nevada attorney-lobbyist who contributed heavily to Reid's campaigns and leadership fund and who employed Reid's son Leif as his personal attorney. With Reid's help, Whittemore was able to proceed with construction of a $30 billion planned golf course development, Coyote Springs, a project heavily criticized by environmental groups for reasons including its projected effects on several endangered species.

In 2006, the National Republican Senatorial Committee attempted to associate Reid with the Jack Abramoff Indian lobbying scandal by pointing out he had "received more than $50,000 from four tribes with gaming interests between 2001 and 2004 after they hired Abramoff". Reid denied any wrongdoing, and media reported that the Center for Responsive Politics, a non-partisan research group, had produced an analysis showing a general increase in the amount and number of contributions by Indian tribes since the late 1990s.

Reid apologized on January 9, 2010, for racially tinged comments he had made when Obama was campaigning for president. In private conversations, Reid had remarked that Obama could win the Presidency because the country was ready to embrace a black presidential candidate, especially one such as Obama—to whom he referred as being "light-skinned" and "with no Negro dialect, unless he wanted to have one". These comments had been recently revealed by journalists Mark Halperin and John Heilemann in Game Change, their book about the 2008 election. In addition to his public apology, Reid called Obama to apologize; Obama accepted his apology, stating that as far as he was concerned, the book was closed on the incident. RNC Chairman Michael Steele and Senators John Cornyn and Jon Kyl called on Reid to resign his leadership position in the Senate, citing Majority Leader Trent Lott resigning because of a statement relating to race. However, multiple experts said there was virtually no chance of such a thing happening. DNC Chairman Tim Kaine and Senators Dianne Feinstein and Jack Reed expressed support for Reid and confidence he would retain his leadership position, and another senior Democrat indicated Reid has "produced supportive statements from key African American leaders in the Congress and civil rights community".

In August 2010, Harry Reid spoke in front of National Council of La Raza: "I don't know how anyone of Hispanic heritage could be a Republican, OK. Do I need to say more?" The following day, Dr. Manny Alvarez and Republican Senator Marco Rubio, both of Hispanic descent, spoke out against Reid's remarks.

Cultural and political image

Part of Harry Reid's confrontation with Frank Rosenthal while chair of the Nevada Gaming Commission is reenacted in the 1995 movie Casino. Reid had a role in the movie Traffic (2000), in which he played himself. He appeared along with Senator Sam Brownback and then Senator Barack Obama in the 2007 documentary film Sand and Sorrow, which details the genocide in Sudan.

Reid was elected to the Gaming Hall of Fame in 2001.

An October 2007 Las Vegas Review-Journal favorability poll indicated 51% of Nevadans viewed Reid unfavorably, with 32% indicating favorability, although in May 2007 Reid had a 46% favorable rating versus a 42% unfavorable one. A December 2007 Las Vegas Review-Journal job approval poll showed 42% of Nevadans rating Reid "poor", 41% "excellent or good", and 16% "only fair".

Personal life

In 1959, Reid married his high school sweetheart, Landra Gould. They have five children, a daughter and four sons. Their eldest son, Rory Reid, was an elected Commissioner for Clark County, Nevada of which he became Chairman of, and 2010 Democratic nominee in the election for Governor of Nevada. Another son recently ran for municipal office in Cottonwood Heights, Utah.

Reid (who was raised agnostic) and his wife (who was born to Jewish immigrant parents and grew up in Henderson), converted to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (the Mormon or LDS Church) while he was a college student. In a 2001 interview he said, "I think it is much easier to be a good member of the Church and a Democrat than a good member of the Church and a Republican." He went on to say that the Democrats' emphasis on helping others, as opposed to what he considers Republican dogma to the contrary, is the reason he's a Democrat. He delivered a speech at Brigham Young University to about 20,000 students on October 9, 2007, in which he expressed his opinion that Democratic values mirror Mormon values. Several Republican Mormons in Utah have contested his faith because of his politics, such as his statements that the church's backing of California's Proposition 8 wasted resources.

In September 2011, Reid's wife was diagnosed with stage 2 breast cancer. She is currently undergoing treatment.

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Harry Reid, U.S. Senator's Timeline

December 2, 1939
Searchlight, Clark, Nevada, United States