Sharron Angle said Thursday that she wasn’t surprised by the ferocity of attacks on her by U.S. Sen. Harry Reid’s campaign since she won the Republican nomination more than a week ago.
“It’s a national race and I knew it would be intense,” Angle said in an exclusive interview with the Las Vegas Review-Journal, adding that Reid is trying to change the subject from his record. “The issue isn’t about me. It’s about Harry Reid and our houses and our jobs and the economic crisis.”
Angle also defended her staunch conservative views that have come under fire, including her proposal to phase out Social Security and her comments that the Second Amendment right to bear arms is meant to protect people from “a tyrannical government.”
“In fact, Thomas Jefferson said it’s good for a country to have a revolution every 20 years,” Angle said in January in an interview with conservative talk show host Lars Larson. “I hope that’s not where we’re going. But, you know, if this Congress keeps going the way it is, people are really looking toward those Second Amendment remedies.”
Asked Thursday whether she was calling for an armed revolution or a political revolution at the ballot box, Angle paused and shook her head as if the question were ridiculous.
“I can’t believe people are even asking that,” Angle said in the brief interview. “I’m very much a proponent of the Second Amendment and the Constitution. But what we have to focus on here is a movement, a movement that’s about retiring Harry Reid” by voting him out of office.
The Reid campaign is using Angle’s words to raise money, saying in a fundraising letter sent Thursday to supporters that the Republican is “as wacky as her views are.”
“Suggesting that people take up arms to achieve political ends is not funny — it’s dangerous and offensive,” Reid campaign manager Brandon Hall said in the missive asking for donations.
Angle’s response came during a 10-minute interview before she received a raucous homecoming welcome from a conservative crowd gathered to rally behind her after she spent two days in Washington, D.C., to introduce herself to top GOP senators and Republican Party leaders backing her campaign.
While she made the Washington rounds on Tuesday and Wednesday, the Reid campaign and the Democratic Party sought to portray the Tea Party favorite as too “extreme” to represent Nevada.
Angle has ignored interview requests from major newspapers, including the Review-Journal, as her advisers sought to keep her away from pointed questions. Instead, she has been going on conservative talk shows and the conservative Fox News program in Washington.
On Thursday, she arrived nearly an hour early at Stoney’s North Forty bar and restaurant in the northwest valley so she could shake hands with a crowd of several hundred supporters. But she agreed to speak briefly on her way inside, and then answered a few questions from several local TV stations before she left.
Angle defended her proposal to phase out Social Security while protecting senior citizens who have paid into the system and allowing younger workers to transition to “personal” retirement accounts.
She said Reid and other Washington politicians “have been raiding Social Security for years” to balance the budget instead of fixing the system so that it doesn’t run out of money in a few decades.
“We owe it to our seniors to stop raiding Social Security and put that money in a lock box,” Angle said, noting Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., tried to pass a law to protect the Social Security Trust Fund from being tapped. She wants to do the same, although similar efforts during GOP administrations have failed.
“We have to stop Harry Reid from bankrupting the system,” Angle said, without offering any details on how to keep current retirees afloat if younger workers opt out of the system.
Inside Stoney’s, Angle’s surprising GOP primary victory and effort to take on the powerful Senate Majority Leader Reid was celebrated by a crowd that watched her being interviewed by conservative talk show host Roger Hedgecock. He did his show live in Las Vegas especially for her.
The loudest applause came when Angle did a riff on how much Reid has done for Nevada, which is his main argument for re-election. She said that as a result of his decades of leadership the state is now suffering from record high unemployment (14 percent), home foreclosures and bankruptcies.
“I think we can’t stand any more of Harry Reid,” said Angle, who called the Democratic leader President Barack Obama’s “whisperer” who’s responsible for the $787 billion stimulus package, industry bailouts and the new health care law that conservative Republicans call a government takeover.
The Reid campaign has criticized Angle for saying it wouldn’t be her responsibility to create jobs as a U.S. senator but is up to state officials .
Angle defended her reasoning on Thursday, saying it’s up to Congress to pass laws that reduce taxes and trim regulations in order to create a more business friendly environment that could lead to job growth and economic development in Nevada and across the nation.
“This is about the economy, the economy, the economy,” Angle said as TV reporters asked about Reid portraying her as radical. “It’s Harry Reid who is not responding to the mainstream of Nevada.”
Asked about the anger behind the anti-big government Tea Party movement that has propelled her campaign with money and grass-roots enthusiasm, Angle said voters aren’t mad they’re afraid.
“This is not just anger,” she said. “This is fear. They’re afraid they’re not going to have jobs.”
Contact Laura Myers at lmyers @reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2919.