Former Rep. Barbara Vucanovich, a GOP icon in Nevada, said Wednesday that she is endorsing Republican Sharron Angle in the U.S. Senate race against Democratic incumbent Sen. Harry Reid, overcoming her initial reluctance to back the Tea Party favorite.
Vucanovich told the Las Vegas Review-Journal that her change of heart came after she met with Angle more than a week ago at the request of Republican Sen. John Ensign, the state's other senator.
"I had a long, candid conversation with her," Vucanovich said of her private chat with Angle. "I told her I would support her. She'll need help. Harry Reid is going to give her a hard time."
Vucanovich's endorsement could signal to other party establishment figures and more moderate Republicans to fall in line behind Angle, whose staunch conservative views have set her apart.
Addressing Vucanovich's main concern, Angle told her that she doesn't plan to do away with Social Security but wants to protect its funding and benefits for seniors and others who have paid into the system, while also letting young workers opt out and open personal retirement accounts.
Angle has said she wants to "phase out" Social Security, a position Reid quickly attacked, including in two TV ads and at least one radio ad. The Reid ads accuse Angle of wanting to "kill Social Security," a charge intended to frighten senior citizens who rely on benefits checks and who often vote.
"I said, 'Sharron, you're scaring the bejesus out of everybody,' " Vucanovich said, describing their conversation. "I told her you better make damn sure people really understand what you're trying to do. I think she's trying to make people understand."
Vucanovich, who in 1982 became the first woman in Nevada to win federal office, said she endorsed Angle and donated the maximum $2,400 to her campaign.
Angle asked for the meeting with Vucanovich after a June 27 story in the Review-Journal that quoted the former congresswoman on why she was reluctant to support Angle.
The story noted that Angle would be the first female U.S. senator from Nevada if she won, but that the former Reno assemblywoman's conservative views were costing her support from women.
During the GOP primary, Vucanovich endorsed Sue Lowden, the former chairwoman of the Republican Party who lost to Angle, the Tea Party favorite.
In the Review-Journal interview, Vucanovich said she wasn't sure she would vote for Angle on Nov. 2, not because of her conservative views but because of her record of not compromising as a lawmaker. Angle often was the lone "no" vote, refusing to go along with moderate GOP leaders.
"She's very rigid and I have a little bit of trouble understanding her positions," Vucanovich had said. "So I'm not out there waving the flag. She's a very difficult person. She's very positive in her own way, but when you're elected you have to work for everybody."
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