Opinion: Nevada’s GOP Senate primary, starring Sharron Angle, Sue Lowden, Tom Cruise and chickens

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As can be expected in a state reliant on spectacle, Nevada has bestowed the nation with an endlessly entertaining Republican Senate primary. In hopes of facing off with gaffe machine and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid in November, leading GOP candidates Sharron Angle, Danny Tarkanian and Sue Lowden have introduced all sorts of characters – and critters – into the heated campaign.

While we wait for the results of Tuesday’s balloting – though not as eagerly as Reid, as we wrote in Sunday’s paper – we thought we’d recount some of the primary’s more bizarre cameos. Starting with …

Tom Cruise: Angle, the ‘tea party’ darling whose chances for victory have surged in the race’s final weeks, was targeted by former frontrunner Lowden in the hands-down strangest ad of the race.

While a state lawmaker, Angle supported a drug-treatment program for inmates that included saunas and massages, which her opponents have linked to Scientology. The Lowden camp cut an ad showing “inmates” sprawled on a massage table and wiggling their freshly painted toenails. One kisses his “Thanks, Sharon” tattoo.


A photograph of Cruise, a Scientology enthusiast, makes a brief, pointed appearance.

Angle, a Southern Baptist, responded to the onslaught by...

...scrubbing her website of references to lobbying for legislation with Scientologists Kelly Preston and Jenna Elfman, the Las Vegas Sun reported.

Should Angle win the primary, there is little doubt we will hear more about Hollywood’s favorite religious organization. Among other things.

Barnyard animals: Political junkies will immediately think of how liberals made hay of Lowden’s transformation into the “pollo-tician” after she fondly recalled the days when folks brought chickens to the doctor. (The most inspired piece of mockery: This techno remix. Bawk!)

But horses have played an equally bizarre role in the Senate primary. Casino owner Lowden, in a recent interview with radio station KNPR, answered a question about her substantial wealth in a curious manner.(Her remarks come about 22 minutes in.)

“Just let me say something about, you think I’m so wealthy. George Washington was wealthy. George Washington left Mount Vernon, left Martha, didn’t have a government horse, he took his own horse, he took his own weapons and went into battle, made sacrifices for our country. That’s a patriot. That’s someone who was in public service. And I’d like to think to think of myself, frankly, as someone in public service …”

More barnyard animals: Tarkanian, who touts himself as a successful businessman, also had an equine entanglement.

The Sun recently took him to task for a questionable $14.5-million loan his company made to the developer of Dignitary Downs, an “equestrian destination resort” in Anza, Calif., which went bust.

The unincorporated town in Riverside County, coincidentally, once struggled with its own political tumult.

In the tea party’s “throw the bums out” spirit, residents ousted their honorary mayor for acting too much like a politician – his sins included printing mayoral stationery – and elected an amiable goat instead. But Opie the goat incurred the wrath of the Chamber of Commerce, which ousted him in something of a coup.

Had candidate filing in Nevada not closed by the time Lowden made her poultry oopsie, we have a sneaking suspicion: State Democrats might have tried to add a chicken to the ballot.


--Ashley Powers

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