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August 18, 2022

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GOP Senate race tightens, turns testy

Key endorsements strengthen Angle; Lowden on defensive

Republican U.S. Senate Candidate Debate

Leila Navidi

Jon Ralston moderates a debate among Republican U.S. Senate candidates Sharron Angle, John Chachas, Chad Christensen, Sue Lowden and Danny Tarkanian on “Face to Face with Jon Ralston” at the KVBC studios in Las Vegas Tuesday, May 18, 2010.

Republican U.S. Senate Candidate Debate

Sharron Angle, from left, John Chachas and Chad Christensen look on as Danny Tarkanian speaks during a debate among the Republican  U.S. Senate candidates on Launch slideshow »

Sun Coverage

The Republican Senate primary, just days before early voting begins, has gained new intensity, as leading candidates fight for the chance to take on Sen. Harry Reid.

Former Assemblywoman Sharron Angle continued to show momentum by winning the endorsement of the Club for Growth, a conservative group that often opens deep pockets to its favored candidates. Angle won the group’s endorsement in 2006 in a Republican primary she would eventually lose to Rep. Dean Heller in the 2nd Congressional District.

Erick Erickson, RedState blogger and conservative CNN commentator, switched his endorsement from Danny Tarkanian, the former UNLV basketball star, to Angle, saying she is the most viable conservative alternative to front-runner Sue Lowden.

For her part, Lowden, former state senator and Republican Party chairwoman, continued to struggle despite remaining the front-runner.

As the Sun revealed, Lowden’s name wound up on the title of a donated luxury RV she is using to campaign statewide. The donation from a political supporter may be a violation of campaign finance laws, which don’t allow in-kind donations of more than $2,400.

The campaign says it was a misunderstanding, that Lowden is paying fair-market value to lease the vehicle and that her name has been taken off the title.

If nothing else, the RV matter has been a distraction.

Chickens continued to weigh down the Lowden campaign, continuing weeks of bad press over remarks she made suggesting bartering — trading such items as chickens or house painting services — for health care as a viable solution to rising costs and lack of access to care.

In a televised debate Tuesday, Lowden denied ever saying, “I’m not backing down from that system” of bartering. But that quote from last month has circulated widely on the Internet.

Democrats, including both the state party and the Reid campaign, have for weeks been pounding Lowden as the most likely and most feared of the Republican candidates. They pounced on Lowden’s bartering denial.

Robert Uithoven, Lowden’s spokesman, said the candidate was merely pointing out that people do barter, a claim supported by numerous media reports, and never intended the comment to be a policy prescription.

The Lowden campaign, clearly sensing an Angle boomlet, launched what could be a devastating attack in a Republican primary, hitting her for voting to raise her legislative salary in 2001 and 2005, despite Angle’s denials.

Uithoven also made what will be the most important argument on behalf of Lowden: electability.

“To beat Harry Reid, you have to attract conservative Democrats and independents. Sue Lowden can do that,” he said. Angle “has never proven her ability to win over independents in any race.”

Jennifer Duffy, an analyst with the Cook Political Report, laid out the campaign’s new dynamics.

“Lowden has had a rough couple of weeks and she has limited time to turn it around,” Duffy wrote in an e-mail. “Angle’s latest endorsements are helpful. Clearly, as we saw in the Kentucky Republican Senate primary (Tuesday), the Tea Party vote is real and substantial. However, the one question that remains is whether Angle has the campaign infrastructure to take advantage of the new momentum.”

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