In Profile: Political outsider Sharron Angle often bucks the powers that be

Growing up in Reno, Sharron Angle lived in a 12-unit motel that her parents ran on South Virginia Street, the main drag through downtown in the "Biggest Little City in the World."

Times were tight, and a price war cut the room rate to $4 a night. So Angle and her three brothers were called into duty, earning one silver dollar a week to help clean the rooms.

"I learned how to make motel beds when I was 9," Angle recalled in an interview earlier this year before her against-the-odds campaign for the U.S. Senate took off. "All four of us kids helped dad with the rooms. We made beds, cleaned the bathrooms, everything."

Like many frugal working class families in the 1950s and ’60s, the children got one present each at Christmas, one for birthdays and a new pair of shoes to start the school year. A splurge might involve a dinner excursion to the Nugget hotel-casino where the kids ordered shrimp boats, french fries served in a ceramic boat-shaped bowl with a mast that skewered the deep-fried prawns.

"We thought we had plenty," Angle said. "But my mother and father struggled some."

Attending the University of Nevada, Reno, Angle helped pay her way by waitressing at a Bob’s Big Boy restaurant 40 hours a week while carrying a full credit load during her senior year. Her soon-to-be husband, Ted Angle, was a UNR senior, too, and he worked at the Dairy Queen.

"You gotta do what you gotta do," said Angle whose weekend shifts started at 6 a.m.

Angle’s upbringing shaped her political philosophy, built on self-reliance and free enterprise. Her father worked on his family potato farm in Oregon, served in World War II and was stationed at Pearl Harbor during the Korean War before coming to Reno with his family when his daughter was 3.

But it also bred a puritan stubborn streak, turning Angle into a determined campaigner and a zealous conservative who seems to view the world in black and white, in terms of wrong and right.

"Sharron is not warm and fluffy," said Heidi Smith, a Republican leader in Washoe County who has known Angle for more than a dozen years. "When Sharron decides she’s going to fight for something, she’s got more energy than a whole city of cats. As long as I’ve known her, she’s always been campaigning on some issue or for some cause. And she always felt that she was in the right."

Her outsider status even among her GOP colleagues played out when Angle served four terms in the Nevada Assembly from 1999 through 2005. Always in the minority, she lost a fight to block a $830 million tax increase in 2003. She was proud of being the lone "no" vote, especially on raising taxes, increasing spending and imposing new rules or mandates on private companies.

"It has to do with principles," said Sparks Assemblyman Don Gustavson, one of Angle’s closest colleagues, who sometimes joined her in voting "no." "She’s an average person that had to work for a living. Her parents raised her well. And she has a commitment to do the right thing."

Among Democrats and even some Republicans, Angle was shunned like a snotty nosed fourth-grader who sits alone at lunch. She was twice voted the worst legislator in a poll of lawmakers and members of the media.

Chris Giunchigliani, a former Democratic assemblywoman on the opposite side of Angle on most issues, used to invite lawmakers from both parties to her rented apartment in Carson City for dinner. She never thought to ask Angle to join them for evenings where wine flowed freely as well as scotch and bourbon.

"Sharron never built any relationships with any of her colleagues," said Giunchigliani, a Clark County commissioner. "She can be very personable one on one, but maybe she felt she had to cloak herself. Compromise is a strength, not a weakness. Sharron might have thought it was a weakness."

Angle’s cheeks flush and her eyes flash with anger when she talks about being "misunderstood and marginalized" by those who don’t agree with her and who caricature her as a far-right fanatic.

"When you don’t have the establishment behind you, you have to work harder," Angle said.

Now 61, Angle said she didn’t set out to become a politician. As a Southern Baptist, the church and her family are the centers of her life. Working as a substitute teacher, she focused for years on raising her daughter and son, as she and her husband lived in several rural Nevada towns over 25 years.

In her first foray into politics, Angle became a home-schooling advocate after her son failed kindergarten. She and other parents went to the Nevada Legislature in 1983 seeking to make it easier for parents to teach children at home, even if they lived within 50 miles of a school, the limit then.

She also started a two-room Christian school inside the Word of Light church in Winnemucca, where she and another teacher taught her son and two dozen other children in 1983 and 1984. Her husband, Ted, helped with repairs and sometimes watched the children play at lunch recess.

Glenda Haley, who taught with Angle for one year, brought her border collie, Shadow, to class. Haley also attended First Baptist Church with Angle, although the two never became close friends.

"She’s a godly woman," Haley said. "She certainly wasn’t lazy or laid back. We all liked her. This was like home-schooling. The kids learn at their own pace, and they learn more than in public school."

During her Winnemucca years, Angle took on her first crusade, compelling the district attorney to enforce a law requiring stores to wrap pornographic magazines in brown paper and put them behind the counter instead of openly displaying them next to the comic books for kids.

She also got involved in political campaigns, even switching her voter registration from Republican to Democrat in 1984 so she could vote in the primary for a friend. Angle said she still voted for President Ronald Reagan, the late GOP icon whose picture she kept on her desk in Carson City.

Angle switched back to the Republican Party in 1988 when she moved to Tonopah, where she made her first bid for public office, winning a seat on the Nye County School Board in 1992. She won by knocking on more doors than the incumbent, a grass-roots style that’s her signature strength.

"I’ve been dog-bit twice, and Ted once," Angle laughed, saying the first incident happened in tiny Gabbs when she met a Great Dane at the door while running for the school board. "The woman took me into her house to make sure I was OK. Of course, I did ask for her vote. I always do."

Peggy Smith, a friend, served on the school board with Angle and five others. The most controversial thing she could recall was a time a teacher asked special permission to show students the film "Schindler’s List," which was R-rated and not allowed under school rules.

The much-praised Oscar-winning film is about a German businessman who saved the lives of more than 1,000 Polish-Jewish refugees during the Holocaust by employing them in his factories.

The movie includes violence and nudity. So the school board decided "it was a moral issue and parents should have the right to say whether the student should see it or not," Smith recalled, saying in the end the board decided the teacher had to get parental permission to show the film in class.

Smith said the issue came up years later when Angle was running for public office in Reno and her opponents painted her as an anti-Semite.

"In these campaigns, they grab at anything and twist it," Smith said.

In highly negative races, the grass-roots campaigner Angle nearly beat Dean Heller for the open 2nd Congressional District seat in the GOP primary in 2006 and nearly knocked off state Sen. Bill Raggio, R-Reno, in 2008 as well. Raggio last week endorsed her U.S. Senate opponent, Harry Reid, saying she was "totally ineffective as a four-term assemblywoman."

At one point, Angle was called a Scientologist because in the Assembly, she once promoted a prison drug treatment program that borrowed some of the controversial religion’s techniques. The label has haunted her again in her campaign to defeat Reid, the Democratic incumbent.

"They’re always trying to marginalize me," Angle complained.

During her Tonopah days, it was Angle’s husband, Ted, who was in the news.

He became embroiled in a Sagebrush Rebellion-like war between the Bureau of Land Management, which he worked for, and ranchers who wanted to graze animals at will on the federally owned land.

The tensions ran so high in Nye County between the ranchers and federal authorities, including those with the BLM and the Fish and Wildlife Service, that both sides took to carrying guns and sometimes pointing them at one another. It broke into open warfare when a man climbed aboard a bulldozer and opened a closed road in the Toiyabe National Forest, an attempt to take back the land.

"He was out in the truck all the time," Angle said of her husband, a laconic native Nevadan who patrolled the state’s largest county while she worried he would be shot and killed on the job.

Ironically, Angle, like many conservatives and states rights advocates, believes the federal government controls too much land in Nevada at more than 80 percent. Still, Angle defends the work her husband did for the BLM, enforcing federal land-use policy, including mining and grazing privileges.

"You have to make sure everyone has access" to public land, Angle said.

In the end, Ted Angle transferred from the stressful and dangerous situation to the BLM office in Reno in 1995. There, he managed the agency’s public room, where people can look at lands records and get other information. He retired several years ago after more than 35 years. The couple resides in a middle-class Reno neighborhood, living off his federal pension.

JoLynn Worley, a longtime BLM spokeswoman in Reno, said field managers have a tough time making decisions that rile their neighbors, especially in small towns where everyone knows your name.

"They go to church in that community. They have friends, and they make decisions based on BLM regulations, not based on what the popular sentiment is," she said. "There’s a lot of pressure."

Angle followed her husband to Reno without finishing her final year on the school board.

Back in her hometown, Angle got more involved with the conservative Independent American Party, which she helped become a state-recognized party through an early 1990s petition drive. She was registered as an IAP member in 1994 in Nye County and in 1996 in Washoe County, according to clerks in both counties, although records are sketchy. But Angle switched back to the Republican Party in Reno in early 1997, perhaps in preparation for her first run for the Nevada Assembly in 1998.

The Independent American Party was founded in 1967 by a family of former Republicans who said they believed the GOP was growing "too corrupt and socialistic."

The party supports limited government and traditional values and is anti-abortion and anti-gay marriage, which aligns with many of Angle’s beliefs and those of the conservative wing of the GOP.

Angle got involved with the IAP after meeting the founder’s sister, Janine Hansen.

"I’ve seen her willingness to stand against the powers that be," Hansen said of Angle. "I feel like Sharron has been the only one who is truly championing the taxpayers. She’s been criticized for saying government is getting too large. But I think Sharron was just a little ahead of her time."

Hansen doesn’t fault Angle for quitting the IAP.

"Sharron has chosen her path, and I have chosen mine," she said.

Angle has dismissed her flirtations with third parties, saying she decided to work within the GOP to transform it from within instead. She joined the Tea Party movement last year with that in mind. She’s part of a crop of half a dozen across the United States hoping to win their way to Washington in the November election.

"We’re in a position in 2010 to take the party back," Angle told her fellow conservative GOP supporters earlier this year in Virginia City, an old mining town above Carson City that had its heyday during the Gold Rush. "If we don’t, we’re going to become irrelevant instead of relevant."

Contact Laura Myers at or 702-387-2919.

Alexa roots for Golden Knights to win Stanley Cup
Alexa, from Amazon's Echo smart speaker, is rooting for the Las Vegas Golden Knights to win the Stanley Cup.
Defense attorneys wrap up closing arguments in David Copperfield civil trial
Defense attorneys wrapped up their closing arguments in David Copperfield civil trial at the Regional Justice Center in Las Vegas. A British tourist is suing Copperfield, his company and others claiming he suffered a traumatic brain injury after participating in an illusion in which the magician appears to make 13 people vanish. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
President Trump talks about how to pronounce "Nevada"
At the United States Naval Academy Graduation and Commissioning on May 25, 2018, President Donald Trump discusses how to pronounce "Nevada."
Amazon's Alexa Recorded and Shared a Couple’s Conversation
Amazon's Alexa Recorded and Shared a Couple’s Conversation News station KIRO 7 reported a Portland couple’s conversation was recorded and sent to one of their contacts via their Amazon Echo device. They found out when the husband’s employee called him saying, via KIRO 7 The voice-activated assistant is used by more than 60 million U.S. consumers, according to Bloomberg. But what will happen if these devices become digital spies within our homes? Daniel Kahn Gillmor, Daniel Kahn Gillmor, to Bloomberg Daniel Kahn Gillmor, to Bloomberg Amazon Inc. issued a statement that the incident in Portland is an “extremely rare occurrence,” and the company did not state whether it was a bug or due to hacking.
Neighbor talks about 15-year-old alleged shooter
Nolan Turner, 15, who lives across the street from the 15-year-old who allegedly shot and killed his father and shot his mother talks about growing up with the teen. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Las Vegas teen kills dad, wounds mom before she shoots him, police say
A 15-year-old boy shot his father to death and wounded his mother in a west valley home Thursday morning before being wounded when she got a gun and returned fire, according to Las Vegas police. Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department officers were called just after 10:45 a.m. Thursday on the 9900 block of Barrier Reef Drive, near West Sahara Avenue and South Hualapai Way. In a briefing near the scene, police said the teenager shot his dad in the head, killing him, then shot his mom, who got another gun and returned fire. They said the boy jumped a wall and ran away, but was arrested about a quarter-mile away. Both the teen and his mom were hospitalized and are expected to survive, police said. Police did not immediately identify the family members but said the man was in his early 50s and the woman was in her late 40s. K.M. Cannon/ Las Vegas Review-Journal
Las Vegas Native Troy Brown Jr. Preparing for NBA
Former Centennial High School player Troy Brown Jr., now 18 and one of the most accomplished high school basketball players in the history of Las Vegas, is back in his hometown preparing to play in the NBA. (Madelyn Reese/ Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Closing arguments at David Copperfield civil trial
Attorneys for British tourist Gavin Cox and MGM Resorts make their closing arguments in the David Copperfield civil trial at the Regional Justice Center in Las Vegas. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
UNLV Surgeon Performs Successful Rare Pancreas Surgery
Las Vegas resident Mary Duda underwent a pancreatoduodenectomy, or Whipple procedure, for her pancreatic cancer. While the grandmother of 19 recovered, her doctors say she's one of the lucky ones. Pancreatic surgery can be risky and has a high morbidity rate. (Madelyn Reese/ Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Former Las Vegas police explorer sentenced to 25 years to life in prison
Former Las Vegas police explorer Joshua Honea sentenced to 25 years to life in prison for sexual assault of a minor, but was allowed to remain free on bail pending appeal. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Golden Knights Fans Line Up to Grab Their Conference Champions Gear
Golden Knights fans lined up at City National Arena Monday to snap up Conference Champions gear and other memorabilia the day after the Golden Knights won the Stanley Cup Conference Finals. (Madelyn Reese/ Las Vegas-Review Journal)
Las Vegas shooting survivor has surprise reunion
Oct. 1 mass shooting survivors Taylor Stovall and Parker Gabel meet for the first time since Gabel helped the injured Stovall to an ambulance the night of the shooting. Stovall, then 17, was shot in the arm. They met Friday at the Tropicana.
Hawaii volcano presser
Talmadge Magno of Hawaii Civil Defense gives an update on the Kilauea volcano
Same-Sex Weddings on the Rise in Las Vegas
Allie and Tara Shima finally tied the knot. They've been together for five years and have both been married before. This time, they wanted something simple, quick and cheap, but it still had to feel special. The couple chose Las Vegas. (Madelyn Reese/ Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Courtyard Homeless Resource Center begins building in Las Vegas
Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman and Ward 3 Councilman Bob Coffin kicked off the demolition of buildings where the Courtyard Homeless Resource Center will be built. (Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @bizutesfaye
Father of fallen Marine to throw out first pitch
Rich Perez, father of Rich Perez Jr. who died while serving in the Marines in Iraq, talks about throwing out the first pitch at the Las Vegas 51s baseball game on Memorial Day. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
"Yanny" or "Laurel" hearing test has gone viral
'Yanny' or 'Laurel?' This Hearing Test Has Gone Viral This hearing test has gone viral on social media with some hearing "Yanny" while others swear hearing "Laurel." The voice is actually saying "Laurel," but the pitch was changed, causing some to hear "Yanny."
LVMPD Briefs on Year's Sixth Officer-Involved Shooting
Las Vegas police have identified the officer who shot a shovel-wielding woman on Saturday as 23-year-old Ondre Wills.
Police release body camera footage of shovel-wielding woman
Las Vegas police identified the woman they said threatened neighbors with a skillet Saturday night. Officer Ondre Wills, 23, shot at Sommer Richards, 34, multiple times on Big Sur Drive, near Nellis Boulevard and Desert Inn Road. Police responded to the area after receiving reports that the woman was armed with a shovel. Police said the woman chased neighbors and a security guard. Wills got between Richards and the others and repeatedly told her to drop the shovel. The woman instead turned and moved toward a person who was standing nearby before the officer fired shots. Police said she bit another officer as he attempted to render aid. Richards remains in serious but stable condition.
College of Southern Nevada Graduates 2017-18 Class
The College of Southern Nevada's graduation ceremony was held at the Thomas & Mack Center Monday. The 2017-18 class was the institution's largest in history. (Madelyn Reese/ Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Metro looking for suspect in bank robbery.
On Jan. 22, a man robbed a bank in the 8700 block of West Sahara Avenue.
Former Gov. Mike Huckabee at opening of U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem
Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, at opening ceremony of U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem, speaks about the violence in Gaza. (Debra J. Saunders/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Supreme Court strikes down law banning sports betting outside Nevada
The Supreme Court has overturned a federal ban on sports gambling. States other than Nevada will be allowed to provide bookmaking and betting at casinos and race tracks. Justice Samuel Alito said Congress can regulate sports gambling directly, but if it elects not to do so, “each State is free to act on its own.” The vote was 6-3. One research firm estimates that 32 states will likely offer sports betting within five years.
Westcare Clinic Crucial to Las Vegan's Addiction Recovery
Christian Hunt, 21, was sent to Westcare in September after he ended up on drugs and in the hospital. If it weren't for the nonprofit's Community Triage Center, Hunt said he would still be using drugs. Instead, he's been sober for six months, and stopped using methamphetamines seven months ago. (Madelyn Reese/ Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Foundation Provides Full Rides for Clark County Students
Somewhere along the banks of the Ohio River in Owensboro, Kentucky, a group of students from Sin City are pursuing a higher education. Feature on the 38 Clark County students that the Rogers Foundation has given full rides to for Kentucky Wesleyan College. (Madelyn Reese/ Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Flames engulf house in Henderson
Clark County firefighters battled a house fire early Friday morning in Henderson. The house, located near Volunteer Boulevard and Executive Airport Drive, was fully engulfed in flames about 2 a.m. Shifting winds sent massive plumes of smoke across the southern Las Vegas Valley sky. As of 3 a.m. , the cause of the fire was not known and no injuries were reported.
Harvey Weinstein’s Estranged Wife Speaks Out for First Time
Harvey Weinstein’s Estranged Wife Speaks Out for First Time Georgina Chapman was profiled for 'Vogue’s' June issue, speaking on her estranged husband for the first time since he was accused of sexual assault in October. Georgina Chapman, to Vogue Georgina Chapman, to Vogue Chapman, who has two children with Weinstein, also said she has been seeing a therapist and that has helped her move forward. Georgina Chapman, to Vogue Georgina Chapman, to Vogue Read the full profile on Chapman in Vogue’s June issue or online at
Bark-Andre Furry the dog is a Vegas Golden Knights hockey fan
The furriest fan of the NHL's Vegas Golden Knights is growing into a social media sensation. Bark-Andre Furry the Jack Russell terrier has thousands of followers on Twitter and Instagram. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Suspect Sought In Robbery Attempt
Attorney Gloria Allred on case against Benjamin Sparks
Attorney Gloria Allred is representing the victim in a "sex slave" case against GOP political consultant Benjamin Sparks.
News Headlines
Home Front Page Footer Listing
You May Like

You May Like