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.

Dave Dave, whose dad set him on fire in 1983, dies
Dave Dave, a respected Las Vegas artist who was badly scarred as a boy when his father tried to burn him to death in Southern California, died at Sunrise Hospital on July 15. He was 42. When he was 6, Dave's father tried to kill him by setting him on fire. He was given a sleeping pill and his bed at a Buena Park, California, motel was doused with kerosene. “I remembered being in a lot of pain,” Dave told the Review-Journal in 2016. “When stuff happens to you at that young of an age, you tend to block it out, but I remember the pain was excruciating.” Dave, who was born David Rothenberg, became close friends with Michael Jackson, who met him after the attack, which burned more than 90 percent of his body. “I wanted to meet him, and he wanted to meet me, and that just turned into a lifelong relationship that never ended,” Dave said. “It was amazing being friends with Michael Jackson. He was an amazing person.” Dave attended ArtCenter College of Design in Pasadena, California, and collaborated with various artists around Las Vegas, eventually selling his art to private collectors. Despite his challenges, he continued to live, thrive and create. Dave Dave
Homicide detectives investigate woman's death
Las Vegas police were called to Tahiti Village Resort early Wednesday after calls that someone had been shot. Police found a woman’s body between a parking garage and boiler room on the resort's property. A guest first reported hearing gunfire. There are no witnesses, but police will examine surveillance videos and look for clues. The woman was not identified, but a purse was found near the body. She did not appear to be a guest at the resort.
LVMPD Discusses Ross Dress for Less Shooting
LVMPD Assistant Sheriff Charles Hank discussed the 15th officer-involved shooting of the year at a press conference at Metro headquarters on Tuesday, Aug. 14. The active-shooter incident took place at the Ross Dress for Less store at the 4000 block Blue Diamond Road in the south Las Vegas Valley. (Madelyn Reese/ Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Metro Asst. Sheriff Brett Zimmerman on Aug. 8 officer-involved shooting
Metropolitan Police Department Assistant Sheriff Brett Zimmerman met with media Monday to discuss the details of the 14th officer-involved shooting of the year. (Madelyn Reese/ Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Clark County School Board president Deanna Wright on travel expenses
Clark County School Board President Deanna Wright says she followed proper expense protocol in trip to Florida last year.
Matt Kelly Elementary School hosted its third annual Back-to-School Red Carpet Program
Matt Kelly Elementary School hosted its third annual Back-to-School Red Carpet Program where community and business leaders joined to welcome students back with an inspirational welcome. Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal @bizutesfaye
Shooting leaves 1 dead in southeast valley
A man was found fatally shot in the doorway of a squatter apartment after an argument ended in gunfire on Sunday night. Officers responded about 10:30 p.m. to the Silver Pines apartments and discovered the man in a breezeway in one of the buildings. The wounded man died at the scene, despite the efforts of another person, who tried to administer medical aid. Witnesses saw a man and a woman flee the scene, but were unable to give police a clear description.
North Las Vegas unveils new school crosswalk
North Las Vegas councilman Isaac Barron talks about the new school crosswalk in front of CP Squires Elementary School Monday, August 6, 2018. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @brokejournalist
LVMPD Briefing on OIS #13
Assistant Sheriff Tim Kelly held a press conference to discuss details of the 13th officer-involved-shoot for the department in 2018. Video shows the moments before the suspect was shot. The shooting, which has been edited out, occurred as the suspect lunged at an officer outside the apartment. (Madelyn Reese/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Sedan and semitrailer collide in south Las Vegas
An early Wednesday morning crash has left one person in critical condition. A sedan and semitrailer collided around 4 a.m. at the corner of Spencer Street and Serene Avenue. Police do not believe impairment is a factor in the crash. Spencer has been blocked off north of Serene while police continue their investigation.
Cybersecurity Professionals Flock to Las Vegas for Black Hat
Black Hat USA, the largest annual cybersecurity conference, is expecting a record 17,000 attendees during its six-day run at the Mandalay Bay Convention Center this week. One thing attendees have in mind is making sure they don't get hacked while they're there. (Madelyn Reese/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Police chase ends with suspects captured in east Las Vegas
An early Tuesday morning chase ended with a car crash in an east Las Vegas neighborhood. Police were pursuing the vehicle, which they say was involved in robberies in Las Vegas and North Las Vegas, when the driver crashed at Owens and Statz Street. A man was taken into custody. A woman was ejected from a vehicle and taken to a hospital with non-life threatening injuries. The intersection at Mojave Road and Owens Avenue was shut down while police officers searched for the suspect and investigated. The intersection will remain closed for most of the morning.
Record number participate in Touro University Nevada White Coat Ceremony
Three hundred sixty-five medical students received their white coats during the Touro University Nevada White Coat Ceremony at the M Resort in Henderson Monday. The ceremony was developed to honor students in osteopathic medicine, physician assistant studies, nursing, occupational therapy and physical therapy as they accept the professional responsibilities inherent in their relationship with patients. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Stop for school buses, urges CCSD
Clark County School District Police Department hold a mock traffic stop at Centennial High School in Las Vegas, Monday, Aug. 6, 2018. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @brokejournalist
Work Begins at Las Vegas Community Healing Garden
Crews moved the wooden Remembrance Wall at the Las Vegas Community Healing Garden on South Casino Center Boulevard Monday. Construction on a permanent wall is set to begin within the week. (Madelyn Reese/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @MadelynGReese
Man wounded outside Cottages apartment
Las Vegas police don't have a motive after a man was shot early Monday morning outside a northwest valley apartment. The man's mother called police to say her son had been shot. She called police around 1:15 a.m. Other people were inside the apartment but no one else was injured. Police are still looking for the shooter.
Ride new Interstate 11 segment in one minute
Interstate 11 opens to the public Thursday, providing sweeping views of Lake Mead, art deco-style bridges and a mural illustrating the construction of Hoover Dam. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Miss El Tiempo 2019
Miss Teen El Tiempo and Miss El Tiempo 2019 were crowned at Sam's Town Saturday, August 4, 2018. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @brokejournalist
Las Vegas Woman Raises Awareness for Anxiety and Depression
Cassi Davis was diagnosed with anxiety and depression after the birth of her second child. After seeking help and support, she felt that there wasn't enough for support for those living day in and day out for those with mood disorders. She created the Crush Run, set for Sept. 22, to raise money for the Anxiety and Depression Association of America and bring together a community of people who live with the same conditions she does. (Madelyn Reese/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
North Las Vegas marks the opening of Tropical Parkway connector
The City of North Las Vegas, Nevada Department of Transportation and other partners celebrated the opening of the Tropical Parkway connector to Interstate 15 and the Las Vegas Beltway. The stretch of road will make access easier for distribution centers for Amazon, Sephora and other companies moving into an 1,100-acre industrial area rising near the Las Vegas Motor Speedway. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Bighorn sheep with West Temple in background at Zion National Park
A bighorn sheep walks through Zion National Park (National Park Service)
Adult Superstore location closes after 45 years
The Adult Superstore on Main Street has closed its doors for good after 45 years. The shop, which offered a multitude of adult toys, novelty items and movies, opened in 1973. Four other locations remain open. A note on the front door tells customers, “We can’t fully express our sorrow.” Adult Superstore was awarded Best of Las Vegas adult store by the Review-Journal in 2016 and 2017 .
Funeral held for Las Vegas corrections officer
Department of Public Safety Correctional Officer Kyle Eng died July 19 after a fight with an inmate at the Las Vegas Jail. A funeral was held for Eng at Canyon Ridge Christian Church Monday, July 30, 2018. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @brokejournalist
What Back-To-School Shopping Is Like For a CCSD Parent and Teacher
Laura LeBowsky, a CCSD special education teacher and mother of two, set out to shop for her children's supply lists at her local Walmart and Target. She was looking for deals to try to keep the total under $150, while also allowing Chloe, 8, and Brady, 6, some choice in what they wanted. (Madelyn Reese/ Las Vegas Review-Journal) @MadelynGReese
Businesses struggle to fill food manufacturing jobs
Chelten House is a family-owned food manufacturing company from New Jersey. They created a facility in Vegas five years ago and have struggled to find experienced workers in the area. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
LeBron heckler crosses line, altercation erupts
NBA superstar LeBron James, his wife, Savannah, and daughter Zhuri were at Liberty High School to watch Bronny James in action Wednesday night. But an unruly fan wearing a Michael Jordan Chicago Bulls jersey heckled the newest Los Angeles Laker. The man screamed at event security with LeBron and his family about 150 feet away. The man had to be restrained, triggering a brief altercation with security. James and his family were escorted out a side door along with Bronny's team, the North Coast Blue Chips. Event officials canceled the game between the Blue Chips and Nike Meanstreets.
Las Vegas Oddities Shop in Downtown Las Vegas
Las Vegas Oddities shop owner Vanessa VanAlstyne describes what's for sale in one of the weirder and wackier stores in Downtown Las Vegas. The store opened less than a year ago and carries everything from human bones to "rogue" taxidermy to Victorian death photography. (Madelyn Reese/ Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Trying to Staying Cool in the Las Vegas Heat
Cooling stations like Cambridge Recreation Center's opened across the Las Vegas Valley this week after the National Weather Service issued an excessive heat warning for the area. (Madelyn Reese/ Las Vegas Review-Journal)
MountainView's nurses protest outside hospital
MountainView Hospital's nurses affiliated with the Nevada chapter of the national Nurses Organizing Committee picketed outside MountainView Hospital Tuesday to urge the hospital to address high turnover rates and understaffing. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Excessive Heat Slams Las Vegas This Week
The National Weather Service issued an excessive heat warning for Tuesday, July 24 through Thursday, July 26 in Las Vegas. People are reminded to limit outdoor activity, drink plenty of water and wear sunscreen. Visit for more heat safety tips. (Madelyn Reese/ Las Vegas Review-Journal)
News Headlines
Add Event
Home Front Page Footer Listing
You May Like

You May Like