LOVELOCK — Taking aim at his potential general election foe, U.S. Sen. Harry Reid on Wednesday criticized Sue Lowden’s new campaign ad in which a Vietnam War veteran praises the Republican candidate for supporting veterans and for going on a USO tour with Bob Hope to Vietnam several decades ago.
Reid said that as state senator, Lowden in 1995 sponsored a bill that would have charged veterans without combat experience a $100 fee to be buried in a Nevada veterans’ cemetery, and she was the only “no” vote on a separate bill to create special license plates to help fund veterans’ cemeteries.
“That’s not too much help to veterans,” Reid told a gathering of three dozen supporters in Lovelock on the third and final day of his campaign bus tour across mostly rural Nevada. “Be very careful when you hear from my opponents,” he warned, suggesting Lowden was misleading veterans about her support. “It’s more than being a beauty queen standing beside someone with a microphone.”
The direct attack from Reid could be a taste of things to come in his high-stakes re-election campaign for a fifth term. His campaign has made it clear he expects to unleash full-force attacks on the record of his GOP opponent, which could be Lowden if she continues to lead the rest of the dozen Republicans vying in the primary election.
The Lowden campaign, also known for it’s fists-first style, responded by noting that Reid once said that the “war is lost” in Iraq, a comment that drew wide criticism.
As for the bills, Lowden’s campaign said she withdrew her legislation to charge a $100 fee to pay for burials of noncombat veterans after the U.S. Senate introduced a measure, co-sponsored by Reid, that would pick up the cemetery tab instead.
On the license plate bill, Lowden voted against it because of an amendment to require a minimum 250 plates be ordered before the state started making plates and collecting money for veterans’ cemeteries, and “she wanted the money to be distributed immediately,” according to her campaign.
Reid’s attack came on the third day of a campaign bus tour across Nevada as he launches his re-election bid by reaching out to rural voters to emphasize that he is one of them, the man from small town Searchlight who rose to the top.
He is highlighting projects and issues that he hopes demonstrate that he has done much for Nevada.
On Wednesday, he toured the Blue Mountain geothermal project, a renewable energy plant in Humboldt County at the end of a dirt road outside Winnemucca. The plant provides energy for up to 40,000 households. It benefited this past year from a portion of the economic stimulus bill.
Reid also talked to miners in Winnemucca and mining industry leaders in Elko, a town known more for its cowboy poets than politicians. Reid, whose father was a hard-rock miner and who has worked in mines, enjoys strong support from the industry, which fears changes to limit access to public lands.
Reid said he doubted anyone in Congress knew more about mining than he did. The 15-minute forum in Elko was billed as a roundtable but amounted to expressions of support from Newmont Mining and other big companies.
Reid ended the day by attending an Elko County Democratic Party dinner with 200 supporters. The senator’s campaign is trying to gear up the Democratic Party machine for a strong get-out-the-vote effort he will need in the fall.
Lowden is the GOP front-runner in a crowded field of a dozen Republicans competing in the June 8 primary to face Reid in the general election on Nov. 2. The Reid campaign has been targeting Lowden for months, but Wednesday’s attack on her ad was the first time the senator himself has criticized her so directly himself.
In the Lowden TV and radio ad, which began running on cable stations Wednesday, a Vietnam War veteran speaks to the camera and says she has “stood up” for American troops.
“During the Vietnam era, Sue Lowden decided that instead of protesting the Vietnam War, she would go to Vietnam to thank those of us doing the fighting over there,” said the veteran, identified as Col. George Peterson. “Sue Lowden stepped up. And her character stood out.”
“Sue and Bob Hope and the USO team gave us a break from the war,” Peterson added. Near the end of the ad, Lowden, a former Miss New Jersey, stands beside the leather-jacket-clad veteran. “Today as Sue travels across Nevada, she always thanks our veterans.”
Reid said that in contrast to Lowden’s record, he has a history of helping veterans, although he did not serve in the military or the Vietnam War.
In the 1960s, Reid was attending university and law school, graduating in 1964. He and his wife, Landra, had two young children, so he was not selected to serve, according to Reid and his campaign.
Reid said that as a U.S. senator he has helped find funding of several hundred million dollars to build two veterans cemeteries in Nevada, up north and down south.
And he said he helped preserve full disability and retirement payments for veterans so they can receive both benefits at the same time.
“I’ve done more than stand there,” Reid said of his record on veterans issues.
Contact reporter Laura Myers at email@example.com or 387-2919.Sue Lowden campaign ad