Sam Morris / Las Vegas Sun
Thursday, Sept. 23, 2010 | 10:17 p.m.
If Sharron Angle thought a forum hosted by Christian groups would provide her with a friendly audience, she was wrong.
The Republican U.S. Senate candidate got booed, heckled, mocked and interrupted during an hour-long question-and-answer session at Faith Lutheran Jr./Sr. High School in Las Vegas.
So did Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. But he wasn’t there to hear it.
Reid was in Washington, D.C., because Congress is in session. He taped answers to questions asked by moderator Mitch Fox weeks ago and appeared in video on two jumbo screens hanging above the stage.
A fight among audience members broke out toward the end of the forum as Reid supporters tried to leave while Angle was still speaking.
Kelly Tanaka said an unidentified man pushed her over and punched her friend Thursday after the forum. The man was detained by school officials.
The 27-year-old Tanaka said the fight occurred because she walked past the man, not because she supports Reid and he backs Angle.
On the issues, neither Reid nor Angle’s answers to the six questions about the economy and small business were surprising.
Reid touted his record of saving jobs and promised to create more. He highlighted his efforts to make Nevada a renewable energy leader and stressed the importance of tourism. Angle vowed to cut taxes, blasted what she called a government blinded by “the fog of taxation and regulation” and promised to “reclaim education for Nevada.”
Both candidates easily controlled their individual conversations with Fox in what was not a true debate format. Each relied heavily on campaign talking points and told personal stories of the hardships they’ve witnessed and the people they’ve helped.
What was far more surprising was the passion Reid and Angle stirred in the crowd of about 800 gathered to listen.
The audience, seemingly split in their loyalties, drowned out both candidates with competing jeers and applause. Pleas for decorum by organizers were ignored.
The video-version of Reid remained unfazed as audience members hissed at him and mocked his claim that “in three years, everyone will have health insurance like I do.”
But Angle looked nervous and flustered by the rowdy crowd. She stumbled on her words and looked down at the stage. Still, she smiled through the awkwardness.
Among the comments that garnered Angle the biggest response — mostly negative — were advocating building two coal-fired plants in Ely, encouraging more lithium mining in Nevada and promoting the state’s potential for nuclear energy.
Angle earned the biggest cheers when she said there’s nothing wrong with the health care system.
“We have the finest health care system in the world,” Angle said, noting that the problem is the cost, which “Obamacare” doesn’t address.
Security at the school was high. Guards checked women’s purses and turned people with campaign signs away.
Posters on nearly every door stated that cameras and video equipment were not permitted. Giant screens warned, “NO questions from the audience or the media allowed.”
“Wow, it’s a debate. That’s a lot of security,” said former Republican Gov. Robert List, who attended the event.
As the forum ended and Angle turned to leave the stage, a woman approached her to ask why she wants to limit help for people with autism. The Reid campaign this week released video of Angle in which she appears to criticize a Nevada mandate that requires insurance companies to cover treatment for autism.
Angle ignored the question. Her handlers had warned that she would not be speaking with anyone after the event. They had to whisk her away to catch a flight to Reno for a morning fundraiser.
Angle looked past the woman, waved to the crowd one last time and walked away.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.