Whole lotta gotcha goin' on.
With the final countdown to the June 8 primary under way, candidates and political parties are hammering their opponents the way Jerry Lee Lewis pounded the ivories.
Take a look at the U.S. Senate race in recent days.
Sharron Angle is the newest attractive target now that she is riding high in the polls and threatening to steal the Republican nomination from Sue Lowden, who had been the GOP front-runner for months.
In recent days, an old story from 2003 resurfaced that tries to link Angle, a former Reno assemblywoman and Bible-thumping Southern Baptist, to Scientology. Even her Wikipedia entry was updated with a heavy dose of detail about her proposal as a legislator to check out an anti-drug program in Ensenada prisons that treated inmates with sauna and massage to help them kick the habit.
Angle, the minority whip in the Assembly at the time, was invited along with other lawmakers to inspect the rehabilitation program that claims to reduce crime and lower the rate prisoners return to prison. But when Democratic leaders got wind of the idea, opponents said the program was similar to one promoted by followers of Scientology, a self-help religion that critics call a cult. The trip was canceled.
Then as now, politics played a role. Angle happened to be leading the fight against a massive $836 million tax package, which passed despite "no" votes from Angle and most of her GOP bloc.
"The way to ruin a conservative is to pass them off as part of the radical fringe," Angle told the Review-Journal last week as the Scientology issue bubbled up. "They always try to marginalize me."
Seeing Angle as a threat, Lowden put out a TV ad that played up the old story, saying Angle "pushed a bill favored by the Church of Scientology," although no bill was ever introduced.
In the same ad, Lowden charged that Angle voted twice "to raise her pay" when she was in the Nevada Assembly, although she has been saying she never voted herself a salary increase.
In 2001, Angle voted yes on AB606, a bill that passed in the Assembly 36-4 but died in the state Senate. It would have increased the pay of state Supreme Court justices, state constitutional officers and legislators to keep up with inflation. For lawmakers pay would have gone from $130 a day to $175.
In 2005, Angle voted for Senate Joint Resolution 11, which allowed the Legislature to put the question of whether to double lawmakers' salaries on the November 2006 ballot. The question failed with support from less than 30 percent of voters. Angle voted against a similar ballot measure in 2003.
Angle spokesman Jerry Stacy said she changed her vote because she was leaving the Legislature to run for Congress in 2006, and because the voters would get the chance to decide the salaries.
"Sharron would have never benefited if voters would have approved the pay increase," said Stacy, who added that Angle voted against three other legislative pay raise bills over the years.
The gotcha game in the final campaign days can range from the silly to the serious.
Lowden has been in the headlines for weeks for defending her remarks that people could barter for health care and for saying people in the old days even gave chickens to doctors.
The Democratic Party made more serious charges last week. It filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission, accusing Lowden of violating $2,400 individual contribution limits by accepting the donation of a luxury RV as a campaign bus. Lowden called the FEC complaint frivolous and said the bus was leased and would be returned to its owner after the election. She also removed her name from the title of the 2001 Monaco RV -- owned by Carl Giudici, whose name also is on the title -- to make clear the vehicle isn't hers. Lowden's campaign said her name had been on the title for insurance purposes.
Her GOP opponent, Danny Tarkanian, initially raised the RV donation issue.
Tarkanian, hoping to catch Lowden, has been running a gotcha campaign against her for weeks. In his toughest attack, he pointed to five $1,000 donations she gave to Reid in the 1980s. He also has accused Lowden of voting for taxes and fees as a state senator, although she claims to have blocked any tax increases, as well as "flip-flops" on issues ranging from abortion to government bailouts.
"Sadly, this negative stuff works," said Fred Lokken, a political science professor at Truckee Meadows Community College. "It's worse than ever because the smears and distortions get out there on the Internet and are treated as something people believe, as if it's in the newspaper or on the TV news. In this day and age, you never know what's true, what's half true and what's disinformation."
Whether the gotchas shake up the race is for voters to decide.
Maybe Lewis sang it best:
"Now let's get down real low one time now ...
"Yeah, come on baby, whole lotta shakin' goin' on."
PAY PER DAY
Republican U.S. House candidate Joe Heck believes he has an antidote for a do-little Congress: Set a day rate and pay lawmakers only for the time they are in Washington and working.
"I think at the very least it should be based on a per diem. If you are not in session and not working, you shouldn't be getting paid," Heck said last week while he was in the capital meeting with journalists and potential donors.
Through Friday, the House has been in session 64 out of 98 workdays this year. Even at that, Heck says it is spending too much time on minor bills naming post offices and "congratulating somebody for winning a national championship."
"You think there are some more pressing issues facing this nation?" said Heck, a former state senator who is running against Democratic Rep. Dina Titus.
"When you look at somebody making $170,000 dollars a year ... ," Heck said, referring to the $174,000 pay for House members.
"I know they will say they are back in the districts so they are working. The job right now is to be here fixing the economy, not being back feeling the pulse of the district or going to events to meet voters. It is taking care of the business you were sent here to take care of."
As a state senator from Las Vegas, Heck in 2005 voted for Senate Joint Resolution 11 to change the pay schedule of legislators.
Members of the Legislature are paid a day rate that is limited by state constitution to the first 60 days of the session, but that includes weekends and days they are not actively in session.
Senate Joint Resolution 11 proposed to extend the day rate to the entire 120 days of the modern-day legislative session. The resolution was passed and put before voters, but was defeated in the 2006 elections.
Heck said at the time he argued legislators shouldn't be paid for the weekends and Fridays when no hearings were scheduled. He still voted for the resolution because "we wanted to be paid for every day we were there."
Stephens Washington Bureau Chief Steve Tetreault contributed to this report. Contact Laura Myers at email@example.com or 702-387-2919.