Terry, one of a small number of women in the Virginia legislature, was the first female nominee of a major party for statewide office in modern Virginia history.

She distanced herself in the House from many so-called women's issues. She opposed the Equal Rights Amendment for years until, she said, sentiment shifted for the measure in her district in Southside Virginia. She is pro-choice on abortion, but voted for a bill last January that would have limited access to abortions for minors.

A conservative Democrat and political ally of Democratic Gov. Charles S. Robb, Terry was picked by Robb to head a high-profile 1982 task force looking into the issue of drunk driving. Terry touted herself during the campaign as a leader who was out front on the issue before it caught the public's eye.

She also stressed her membership on the House's powerful, all-lawyer Courts of Justice committee as evidence that she is knowledgeable on criminal justice issues. A supporter of the death penalty, she won the endorsements of state police and sheriffs's groups.

Terry has been a partisan team player in the state capital and had the backing during the campaign of House Speaker A.L. Philpott as well as Robb. When conservative former senator Harry F. Byrd Jr., an independent, failed to endorse Terry's Republican opponent, it was seen as a sign that Terry, not her GOP rival, was the true conservative in the eyes of some of the state's conservatives.

Her fund-raising prowess was credited with heading off potential rivals at the party's nominating convention last summer, where she was unopposed.

The eldest daughter of former schoolteachers in rural Patrick County, Terry is now a partner, with her parents and two sisters, in a family farm and milling business. She is single and holds a master's degree in government from the University of Virginia, as well as her law degree.

As attorney general, she will be paid $75,000 a year and take charge of a state legal apparatus that includes on its agenda an investigation of her law partner in connection with the alleged bribery of two elected county officials. Officials have said the probe in no way involves Terry.