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Tea Party Darling Sharron Angle Struggles To Persuade Some Nevada Republicans

First Posted: 07/09/10 07:42 PM ET Updated: 05/25/11 05:55 PM ET

Sharron Angle Nevada Senate
Sharron Angle: Nevada Senate Candidate Faces Tough Criticism From GOP Allies Back In Home State

Republican Senate candidate Sharron Angle may be the darling of the Tea Party movement, but within the Nevada GOP community, the conservative hopeful has been criticized as "a very difficult person," "an ultra-right winger" and someone the state "can't rely on" to be their representative in Washington.

A growing number of Nevada Republicans are expressing skepticism over Angle's Senate candidacy. Some are even signaling they may not vote for the GOP contender over Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid in November.

Mayor Geno Martini, the Republican mayor of Sparks, Nev., bucked his own party this week when he endorsed Reid over Angle.

"Harry Reid's been very good for us for many, many years," Martini said of his decision to support the majority leader. "We can't rely on a new person, especially Sharron Angle, to do anything for us here in Sparks."

After first withholding her support, former Nevada Congresswoman Barbara Vucanovich, a well-respected figure in the party, announced this week that she would back Angle. But Vucanovich's endorsement ended up sounding more like a scolding.

"I said, 'Sharron, you're scaring the bejesus out of everybody,'" Vucanovich told the Las Vegas Review-Journal, describing "a long, candid conversation" with Angle. "I told her you better make damn sure people really understand what you're trying to do."

As recently as last month Vucanovich was expressing serious reservations about Angle's electability.

"She's very rigid and I have a little bit of trouble understanding her positions," the former lawmaker said in an interview with the Review-Journal. "She's a very difficult person."

Vucanovich explained that her concerns don't just stem from Angle's conservative views, but rather from her uncompromising style of legislating. The characterization appears to grow out of a reputation Angle developed among her colleagues during the years she served in the Nevada state legislature from 1999 to 2005.

"In the building we used to have a joke called 41 to Angle," Democratic assemblywoman Sheila Leslie recently told the New York Times. "She took great pride in voting 'no' for everything. We have some very conservative people in the assembly, but she was the only one voting 'no' on a technical cleanup bill. The lobbyists didn't talk to her, the legislators wouldn't talk to her, because when you vote no on everything no one wants to deal with you."

Polling data from the state's GOP primary held in early June revealed Angle backers to be an extremely loyal bunch. But it seems the rigid ideology that won the Senate hopeful that support may also have thwarted her ability to sell her candidacy to a wider swath of voters.

Angle's style has earned her a fair number of Republican detractors over the years and as the Reno Gazette Journal notes, the chilly relationship that developed between Angle and her party may prove problematic in November.

State Sen. William Raggio, who Angle tried but failed to unseat in 2008, recently said he will "find it very difficult to support" the Senate candidate and also wagered he's hardly the only member of the Nevada GOP who has concerns.

"I would say there are a lot of Republicans who will find it difficult to support Sharron Angle," Raggio said shortly after the Nevada primary. "Abolishing the Department of Education, phasing out Social Security, those are pretty extreme positions. I think any incumbent is vulnerable, but you have to have somebody that is also acceptable if you're going to win."

Republican Reno Mayor Bob Cashell, who backed Angle's GOP primary opponent, Sue Lowden, recently criticized Angle by calling her an "ultra right-winger." Cashell does not mince words when it comes to Angle: "Our state [would] suffer and we would never get anything done." The Reno mayor intends to hit the campaign trail for Reid.

For her part, Angle doesn't appear too concerned about how her extreme views are playing with voters. The Republican contender has repeatedly insisted that her positions fit within the "mainstream." (The latest poll numbers still show Angle slightly ahead of Reid.)

But Angle's hard-line approach has even drawn criticism from some members of her Tea Party base. Activist Debbie Landis -- whose group Action is Brewing endorsed now-defeated candidate John Chachas in the state's GOP primary -- suggested last month that Angle isn't "solution-oriented" and said the Senate contender's relationship with Nevada-based Tea Party groups has become fragile.

And even conservative radio host Bill Manders, who has endorsed Angle's candidacy, recently stressed the need for the Tea Party-backed candidate "to slide to the left a little bit" if she expects to have any chance at defeating Reid.

"This hardcore right thing is going to kill her," he predicted just one day after Angle secured the GOP Senate nomination. "It may cost her an election if she doesn't understand that."

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