Angle’s political rise far transcends descriptions of her as the “Tea Party” candidate. Truth told, she was at that tea party long before the kettle started whistling.
Angle, 60, is a staunch social conservative who is going up against the highest-ranking elected official in Nevada history, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. That fact alone would seem to pit her as a gargantuan underdog, but opinion polls show Reid is also unpopular in a state strapped with a high unemployment rate and a crippling home foreclosure crisis.
Reid continues to use his Washington clout to bring home public works projects and government contracts, sprinkling them throughout his native state and advertising the effort. His presence at the highest level of government is undeniable. Angle, meanwhile, is campaigning in part on a call for smaller government and lower taxes.
Clearly, these are two very different candidates. But that’s good news for Nevadans: Their positions on most issues are very much in opposition.
In the coming weeks, I’ll gather the candidates’ public statements and positions on a broad range of issues. Heaven knows there are enough of them, from health care reform and the Wall Street bailout to the government’s efforts to squeeze BP following the Gulf oil spill.
If you’re looking for perhaps the biggest difference between Reid and Angle, search no further than their stated positions on the proposed Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository.
The son of a Searchlight miner, Reid has a long history of supporting and protecting the interests of Nevada mining. But he’s adamantly opposed to Yucca Mountain and for decades has worked politically to stop it. Even some of Yucca’s staunchest critics, former Sen. Richard Bryan and former Gov. Bob Miller among them, credit Reid with doing the most to trip up the proposed repository even while Nevada has managed to extract billions of dollars for everything from the employment of engineers on site to millions in set-asides for the counties in the name of studying the project.
On his website Reid states, “I am proud that after over two decades of fighting the proposed Yucca Mountain nuclear waste dump, the project is finally being terminated.
“The proposal to dump nuclear waste at Yucca Mountain threatened the health and safety of Nevadans and people across our nation.”
Angle, meanwhile, stands fully and proudly in favor of Yucca Mountain, at least as a site for the “reprocessing” of nuclear spent fuel. She likes the project for the jobs it might create at a time of high unemployment.
While on the surface this sounds a little like the rhetoric of her top primary opponents, Sue Lowden and Danny Tarkanian, Angle’s language is far more unambiguous. She’s as close to a pro-Yucca spokesperson as the state has ever had from a major party candidate running for a statewide office.
Angle’s support for Yucca has been so straightforward that she’s attracted attention and praise from a pro-nuclear industry website, neinuclearnotes.blogspot.com.
Mark Flanagan posts: “She’s a genuinely surprising candidate, as her all-in nuclear energy advocacy had always seemed a toxic subject in Nevada.”
He then cites Angle’s statements during an interview with “Face to Face” host Jon Ralston. Angle said, “Let’s talk about the potential that Harry Reid has actually destroyed by demonizing the nuclear energy industry. There is a pot of money out there and the courts agree with me that we have some potential for some job creation here and for some diversification of the economy if we make some lemonade out of lemons and we have a perfect opportunity right now in this economic climate to create some jobs.
“I believe yes, they should stop fighting (the Yucca Mountain license application.) We have some potential here.”
Nevada’s biggest political fight is getting interesting — and this is just round one.
John L. Smith writes a weekly column on rural Nevada. He also writes a daily column for the Las Vegas Review-Journal. Contact him at 702 383-0295 or at email@example.com.