Use of assault victim’s letter fits with primary’s nastiness

The letter from sexual assault victim Amanda Collins detailing the night she was raped is hard to put down — and even harder to read without wincing.

That it’s intended as a political fundraising tool places it in a downright eerie light: The bruising missive was produced on behalf of Sue Lowden and has the undeniable impact of forcing the reader, however briefly, to focus attention on the increasingly nasty GOP primary for lieutenant governor.

Traditionally, rhetoric in the campaign for lieutenant barely rises above a murmur, and voter interest is as flat as a stale stein of beer. A primary generates even less buzz.

But with Nevada’s two-headed Republican Party, anything can happen. A street fight in the race between Lowden and Mark Hutchison has definitely arrived.

Their previous dust-ups were playful compared with the Collins letter.

“Let me tell you a story …” she writes. “It’s not an easy story for me to tell …”

But then she tells it in awful detail. It is anything but subtle.

“He put a gun to my head, clicked off the safety and told me not to say a word … before he brutally raped me.

“Those were the worst 10 minutes of my life … And thanks to lawmakers such as Nevada state Sen. Mark Hutchison your mother, daughter, sister or wife could go through the same hellish nightmare!”

You would be forgiven for wondering whether Hutchison, a clean-living family man, was somehow indirectly responsible for Collins’ hellish nightmare. He wasn’t. But he failed to sign on as a co-sponsor of an unsuccessful attempt to pass a campus concealed-weapons carry bill through the 2013 Legislature. Hutchison didn’t embrace the bill offered by conservative firebrand Assemblywoman Michele Fiore.

The bill foundered for several reasons, but that’s not the point of the letter. The point is to remind conservative voters that Hutchison didn’t come through on the issue — and Lowden “gets it.

“She’s a strong advocate for the right of self-defense.

“In fact, she’s a CCW permit holder herself!”

In his response to Las Vegas Review-Journal political columnist Steve Sebelius’ news-breaking weekend blog on the letter, Hutchison wrote in an email, “It is shameful that my opponent would use the victim of a horrible crime to raise money for her failing campaign. I’m the father of three daughters. I favor the right of college students who qualify for a CCW permit to carry a firearm on campus for their personal safety.”

Hutchison noted that the Fiore bill never reached the Senate side. He added that he is a strong supporter of Second Amendment rights and a Life Member of the National Rifle Association. He also is a CCW permit holder.

Two candidates for lieutenant governor on the GOP side, and both have concealed-weapons permits. I’m willing to bet you didn’t know the job was so dangerous.

Not everyone buys the idea that college campuses are unsafe or lack sufficient security and law enforcement presence. But the issue rings loudly for conservative voters who cast their ballot based at least partly on a candidate’s support of Second Amendment issues. For those voters — the ones who are likely to turn out in the Republican primary — this is a big deal.

The letter takes other potshots at Hutchison, describing him as a political follower and beneficiary of “well-connected insiders” who already have fattened his campaign coffers into the $1 million range.

No word yet on whether Lowden, a longtime casino executive who has built decades of contacts in the business and political communities, would stoop so low as to accept big donations from “well-connected insiders.”

At the end of her withering letter/money pitch, Collins writes, “P.S. I’m sure my story was emotionally draining for you … and I sincerely thank you for taking time to read it.”

Whether the letter raises substantial contributions remains to be seen.

But I suspect it’s already raised the blood pressure of Lowden’s opponent.

John L. Smith’s column appears Sunday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. E-mail him at jsmith@reviewjournal.com or call 702-383-0295.