Sam Morris / Las Vegas Sun
Tuesday, Aug. 10, 2010 | 2:01 a.m.
They agree, they disagreeSharron Angle and Joe Heck are conservative Republicans who agree on education (get rid of the federal department of), jobs (boost the private sector to create them) and, for the most part, abortion (against it). But they part ways over Social Security reform and how they would have voted on the extension of unemployment benefits.
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Sharron Angle and Joe Heck are conservative Republicans who served in the Legislature together, but they aren’t friends. They don’t discuss public policy with one another. They don’t coordinate campaign strategies. They don’t meet for coffee.
“We are colleagues, nothing more than that,” Heck, a former state senator, said.
Democrats, however, are working hard to cast the relationship between the Republican Party’s U.S. Senate and 3rd Congressional District candidates in a different light.
They are seeking to portray Heck, who is challenging Rep. Dina Titus, and Angle, who faces Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, as having a shared agenda and common ideals. In the bargain, Democrats hope to make Angle the face of the GOP and her views — considered extreme by many — the views of all Republicans, including gubernatorial candidate Brian Sandoval.
The strategy is also an attempt to piggyback on the Reid campaign’s efforts to portray Angle as extreme. Those attacks appear to have had success, with polls showing voter sentiment as much against Angle as it is with her.
“The Democrats are desperate to beat me,” Heck said. “The way they think to do that is to tie me with Sharron.
“She has been assailed on TV by the Reid campaign. They try to make guilt by association,” he said.
Titus’ campaign sent out a memo recently asking supporters to “fight the radical Heck-Angle agenda.”
“Sen. Heck has embraced her radical agenda and shares her extreme views,” the memo stated.
Last week, Titus criticized Heck and Angle for “their failed ideas,” noting that the two were scheduled to appear together at a conservative country music concert in Henderson.
“Tonight Sen. Heck will be partying it up with his pal, ultra radical Sharron Angle,” the message sent by Dina Titus for Congress read. “He and Sharron Angle are trying to cover up their positions with loud music and entertainers.”
Heck canceled at the last minute. A colonel with the U.S. Army Reserve, Heck said he had to be in Phoenix to welcome home a military unit returning from deployment.
“Sharron Angle epitomizes the stark contrast between the two parties,” said Frank Benenati, spokesman for the Democratic National Committee. “This is the new Republican Party. If (the other candidates) want to disavow her, they should. Until then, we’re going to call them out.”
Democrats have also targeted Sandoval. The Nevada State Democratic Party issued a news release last month criticizing Angle and Sandoval for being “cozy” with Sen. John Ensign, who is under federal and Senate investigation after a sex scandal.
Democrats say the associations are earned. Heck endorsed Angle at the Nevada Republican Convention and asked party members to rally around her. Sandoval also has said he will support her.
“There are a number of issues there where they do share the same agenda,” said Andrew Stoddard, spokesman for the Titus campaign.
And indeed parts of the candidates’ platforms are similar.
Heck and Angle believe education decisions are best made at the local level, and both advocate dismantling the Education Department as a Cabinet-level agency. Both have said it’s not the government’s role to create jobs, although both have clarified their positions, saying government instead should create an environment with reasonable regulations and a stable, fair tax base to help the private sector create jobs. Both candidates also oppose abortion, but Heck believes exceptions should be made to save the life of a mother or in documented cases of rape or incest.
Yet there are key differences.
Angle favors privatizing Social Security, saying she wants to “transition out” the current system, while Heck wants a voluntary second option for investing. He would like to see a Social Security program in which people can choose to invest their dollars in diverse markets. Employers would continue contributing to the existing Social Security system.
Unlike Angle, Heck said he would have voted to extend unemployment benefits. Angle has said unemployment benefits discourage people from looking for work.
The two campaigns are cooperating, recognizing that they need each other to win. They are “friendly,” an insider said, and are helping each other register voters, raise money and gain endorsements.
“While the Republican candidates are united in their effort to fix the broken economy in this state, the Democratic candidates are united by something most people do not like — the name Reid,” Angle spokesman Jarrod Agen said. “It’s very obvious that the Democratic Party is scared that the two names on the top of their ticket are a turnoff to voters and that’s why they are grasping at baseless attacks.”