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August 31, 2015

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Anti-Reid campaign in Ely had passion, but no traction

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Steve Marcus / FILE

Jack Norcross put up signs disapproving of Senate Majority Harry Reid outside a vacant building he owned in Ely in 2009.

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Jack Norcross started with a sign outside a building in Ely he couldn’t sell or rent: “Elect Anyone But Reid.”

In 2009, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid killed a couple of coal-fired power plants in White Pine County. And Norcross, 66, a retired insurance broker, was angered by the loss of thousands of jobs those plants could have created.

A friend suggested adding an extra T — presumably for comic effect — and a wave of yard signs and bumper stickers was born.

The “Anyone Butt Reid” campaign came to symbolize the hatred for Reid felt by a certain segment of the state’s voters. But it also reflected a strain of Republican strategy in the U.S. Senate race — that anyone with a heartbeat could beat the wily Reid, whose unfavorable ratings hovered above 50 percent.

Oops.

In a phone interview Wednesday from his home in Ely, Norcross lamented Reid’s victory over Republican challenger Sharron Angle.

“The Republicans didn’t field the best candidate, or a candidate who could beat Harry Reid,” Norcross said. One of the other, more moderate Republican candidates in the primary could have won, he said. “The Tea Party coming out in the primary had a big influence on the election. Danny Tarkanian or Sue Lowden could’ve done better.”

Democrats exploited Angle’s conservative stands and statements about Social Security and Second Amendment remedies. They made this election a choice between candidates, not simply a referendum on Reid as Norcross and Republicans wanted.

Reid’s campaign reached into the primary, stoked the generous embers Lowden provided with comments about bartering chickens for health care, and influenced who Reid would face.

Still, no one will ever know if Lowden or Tarkanian or some other candidate, such as Rep. Dean Heller, would have fared any better than Angle.

“Those ‘Anybody Butt Reid’ people are probably the same ones who voted for Sharron,” said Robert Uithoven, who managed Lowden’s primary campaign. “But you have to earn your way into the general election, and Sharron Angle did.”

Like other Republicans, Uithoven was reluctant to play what-if on whether another Republican could have defeated Reid.

“There may be buyer’s remorse, but it doesn’t do any good to ... discuss it. Sharron Angle won the primary fair and square, won it convincingly,” he said. “She gave Harry Reid a bigger challenge than they anticipated.”

Norcross had no regrets about his one-man movement, fueled by donations from people who wanted yard signs and bumper stickers.

“Obviously, the majority of the voters in Nevada are satisfied with the status quo,” he said. “That’s the way the election goes. It’s a situation where the majority wins, and we go with the majority.”

As for whom Norcross supported in the Republican primary, he admitted that he played no role in picking Reid’s opponent. As it turns out, he’s a Democrat.

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