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December 21, 2014

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Fundraiser draws protesters hoping to unseat Reid

Conservative group calls bailout, deficit spending ‘offensive’

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Mona Shield Payne / Special to the Sun

Conservative protesters hold up signs in front of Caesars Palace Tuesday targeting U.S. Sen. Harry Reid, who was in town with President Obama for a fundraiser benefiting Reid’s reelection campaign.

Reid protest

Waving American flags above their heads, supporters of President Obama and U.S. Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., from left, Kennith Dean, Paris Lane and Tammy Vincent, scream Launch slideshow »

Obama, Reid at Caesars (5-26-2009)

President Barack Obama and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid embrace during a fundraiser at The Colosseum at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas Tuesday. Launch slideshow »

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Prepared remarks

Locals protesting President Barack Obama and Sen. Harry Reid were mixed in among tourists on the sidewalk outside Caesars Palace on Tuesday.

Hundreds more, showing no overt political interests, lined the entrance to the Las Vegas Strip resort hoping to catch a glimpse of the president during his visit for a Reid fundraiser.

The protest was organized by the conservative political action committee Our Country Deserves Better.

The organization used the fundraiser as a backdrop to launch its campaign to oust Reid in the 2010 election.

“In his role of Senate majority leader, Reid’s had to push through things and line up the votes and twist some arms on things that we find offensive in terms of the bailouts, the deficit spending that’s exploded and some of the tax increases to pay for it,” said Joe Wierzbicki, the PAC coordinator.

The PAC has spent more than $100,000 on advertising to defeat Reid so far and expects to spend more than $1 million in Nevada by Election Day, Wierzbicki said.

A Republican front-runner has yet to emerge but the PAC supports former Assemblywoman Sharron Angle as she considers running against the four-term Reid.

A few protesters got in a shouting match with a man walking through the crowd but the protest was mostly calm.

Organizers said they expected between 50 and 150 people to attend the protest. One in attendance was Victor Thomas, of Boulder City, who is a 28-year veteran of the Air Force.

He said he believes Reid lost the support of many veterans when he said “the war is lost” in April 2007. Reid also said the war could be won, “diplomatically, politically and economically,” but Thomas said that wasn’t the right message to send to troops.

“If you want to stab a young GI in the back all you got to do is have somebody high up in government, like Senator Reid, say the war is lost,” he said. “In other words, we’ve lost faith in the mission, but he’s still there ready to die for his country.”

Some protesters carried signs and chanted that Obama should apologize for his comment he made four months ago telling companies that received bailouts not to visit Las Vegas on the taxpayer’s dime.

Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman earlier had said he expected to meet the president and discuss the remark.

Gov. Jim Gibbons also asked for face time to discuss the issue but was told by Obama’s staff he could only meet briefly with the president at the airport. Gibbons said the offer was unsatisfactory and turned it down.

Paul Winn of Las Vegas said Obama’s remarks hurt local business and the president should apologize to Gibbons, not just Goodman.

“He’ll do it to Oscar because he’s a Democrat but he won’t do it to Gibbons because the governor is a Republican,” he said.

Wendy Ellis of Las Vegas criticized the government’s handling of the economy, saying the bailout shouldn’t have been given out.

“The government is not supposed to be involved with business, with the market. That’s fascism,” she said. “Let the industry go bankrupt. New people will come in with better ideas and you will have a successful business.”

A trio of Obama supporters started an impromptu counter-protest near the larger group.

Kenith Dean and Parris Lane of Las Vegas and Tammie Vinson, visiting from Louisville, Ky., learned of Obama’s visit earlier in the day and said they wanted to support him. They said he’s done as much as he can in just a few months in office.

“People are not giving him time. It takes time to heal those wounds,” Vinson said. “The country didn’t get sick overnight. It won’t get well overnight.”

Lane added: “We love our president. It feels good to say that.”

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