Thursday, Jan. 30, 2014 | 1:27 p.m.
RENO — Sue Wagner, a lifelong Republican and the first woman elected as Nevada lieutenant governor, has left the GOP.
Wagner said she changed her voter registration to nonpartisan several days ago out of frustration with the party's shift to the far right.
"I did it as a symbol, I guess, that I do not like the Republican Party and what they stand for today," Wagner told the Reno Gazette-Journal.
"I've been a Republican all my life," she said, adding her father was active in the GOP in Maine, where Wagner was born.
"It was more of a moderate, liberal Republican Party," she said. "It's grown so conservative and tea-party orientated, and I just can't buy into that.
"I've left the Republican Party — and it's left me, at the same time."
In 2010, Wagner spoke against Republican tea party-backed U.S. Senate candidate Sharron Angle because of Angle's views on abortion. During her failed campaign against Democratic Majority Leader Harry Reid, Angle opposed abortion in all circumstances, including rape and incest, and suggested pregnant teens could turn "a lemon situation into lemonade" by not having an abortion.
Wagner called Angle's comments "the most extreme anti-abortion position I've ever heard." Wagner had helped initiate a voter-approved referendum in 1990 protecting abortion rights in the state.
A longtime Reno resident, Wagner served in the Nevada Assembly from 1975-1980 and in the Nevada Senate from 1981-1989.
She was elected lieutenant governor in 1990 just months after surviving a small plane crash while campaigning in Fallon over the Labor Day weekend.
But she suffered severe injuries that took a toll on her health. Once mentioned as a potential gubernatorial candidate, she left the lieutenant governor's office after one term and never sought elected office again.
In 1997 she was appointed by then Gov. Bob Miller, a Democrat, to the Nevada Gaming Commission, a position she held until her retirement in 2009.