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Vanity Candidacy Or Serious Threat? Assessing Sharron Angle Vs. Joe Heck

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Nine people are competing in the Republican primary for Nevada's open U.S. senate seat, vacated by retiring Senator Harry Reid. Congressman Joe Heck is largely expected to win the primary on June 14, but not without first facing a challenge from notorious Tea Party figure Sharron Angle.

Reno Public Radio's Julia Ritchey spoke with Steve Sebelius, veteran political columnist at the Las Vegas Review-Journal, on the unexpected match-up in an already unusual election cycle.

Sebelius says it took many political observers by surprise, including him, when Angle filed to run, especially after losing to Sen. Reid in 2010 by six points. 

“Her explanation is that she was encouraged by conservative lawmakers, including Brent Jones of Las Vegas and Sen. Don Gustavson from Northern Nevada,” he says. “They thought there needed to be a conservative alternative to Joe Heck, which surprised a lot of people who thought Joe Heck was the conservative alternative. He’s not known in anyone’s book as a liberal.”

So far, though, it doesn’t appear Angle is posing a serious threat to Heck’s candidacy. Sebelius says at this stage, normal campaigns would be gathering data and mobilizing voters.

“I have a sneaking suspicion that her campaign is really not doing those things, and I think this may be more of a vanity candidacy than an actual serious attempt to knock Joe Heck out,” he says.

Not that she hasn’t changed her strategy this election cycle, including more aggressive social media outreach.

“In 2010 she wouldn’t do interviews,” he says. “Well now, she’s not only engaging on, for example, social media on Twitter with reporters, she’s offered me a copy of her book, personally delivered.”

Sebelius thinks Angle’s run may actually prove to be an upside for Heck in the general election, when Democrats attempt to paint him as “too conservative.”

“Now that Sharron Angle is in the race, now you’re saying, ‘Well, hold on a second.’ Joe Heck isn’t really this conservative demon that we’re about to be told,” he says.

Read more of Sebelius’ coverage here

Julia Ritchey is a former reporter at KUNR Public Radio.
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