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August 23, 2014

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For Rancho High students, a real-life lesson in politics in Angle exchange

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Justin M. Bowen

Rancho High School jr. Debbie Rios poses for a portrait Tuesday, October 19, 2010.

Debbie Rios

Rancho High School jr. Debbie Rios poses for a portrait Tuesday, October 19, 2010. Launch slideshow »

Sharron Angle

Sharron Angle

Map of Rancho

Rancho

1900 Searles Avenue, Las Vegas

Whatever happened in Room 513, a small lecture hall in cavernous Rancho High School, it was, by any standard, one heckuva civics lesson.

The exchange Friday between Sharron Angle, the Republican U.S. Senate candidate, and about 130 largely Hispanic students in the standing-room-only room was, by turns, surprising, evasive and enraging, according to students who were there.

It was the buzz of Rancho High by Monday morning and, because of news coverage and a YouTube video over the weekend, a national bone of contention in the poisonous race between Angle and Democratic incumbent Harry Reid, the Senate majority leader.

In a meandering question-and-answer session, Angle, who has made a stance against illegal immigration a mainstay of her campaign, had been asked why her television commercials seemed to stereotype Latinos as thugs.

On one commercial showing three Hispanic men, Angle insisted it wasn’t anti-Hispanic, that America was a melting pot and that some of the students in the room didn’t look Latino but Asian. In fact, she said she was once described as the first Asian state legislator in Nevada.

“It was, like, confusing,” recalled Yvonne Tapia, 16, who was there. “She didn’t answer our questions well. It was more like babble, just talking and talking and talking.”

Alex Mata, 15, said he was offended by Angle’s answers and her television commercials. “If she can’t answer smart questions from high school students,” he said, “how is she going to do it when she’s higher up there” in the Senate?

Most students at the meeting aren’t old enough to vote. An exception was Janet Manzo, who recently turned 18 and plans to vote against Angle on Saturday. Angle’s answers “confirmed my suspicions,” she said.

Some of the few adults there were outraged, too. “Instead of acknowledging our students’ ethnicity, she denied it,” said A.Y. Rojas, 55, a biology teacher. “You could be Asians for all I know is what she was saying. That rubbed me as rude.”

Isaac Barron, 40, a history teacher and the faculty adviser to the students who organized the meeting, is more philosophical.

Politicians “shouldn’t underestimate our youth,” he said. “These children were able to get a senatorial candidate, of probably the most contentious race in the United States, to appear at their high school and talk to them.”

He added, “Most of these children aren’t of voting age and even if they don’t participate in this election, they’re going to vote in upcoming elections.”

A spokeswoman for Angle was provided with student and faculty quotations from this article but did not respond to a request for comment.

The controversy may have started — but who really knows? — with Debbie Rios, 16, who sat in front of Angle last week.

She is a student at Rancho High, which serves a predominantly working-class Hispanic section of Las Vegas.

Politicians — most often Democrats — come to Rancho High to court the Hispanic vote. Almost a quarter of Nevada’s population is Hispanic.

New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson; Harry Reid; and Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, when both were running for president, have spoken at Rancho to youngsters who can’t vote but presumably have older family and friends who do.

Rancho students ask Republicans to the school but they normally don’t come. Rios is the junior-class representative of the Hispanic Student Union, which spent months persuading Angle to speak.

So it was a pleasant surprise when Angle, who has declined many invitations by other groups, accepted. Rios was seated in the front row when Angle stood up to take written questions. (The student group usually videotapes speakers but Angle aides asked the group not to.)

Students say Angle flubbed one of the first questions about Millennium Scholarships, highly praised by members of the student union, most of whom want to go to college.

At first, Angle denied opposing the scholarships and, in a wandering answer, concluded by saying that is why she voted against them while in the state Legislature. Students began shaking their heads.

Angle really touched a nerve on a question about her television commercials, one of which depicts three smug, even menacing-looking, Hispanic males.

Then, she said, according to a secretly recorded video later uploaded to YouTube, “So that’s what we want is a secure and sovereign nation and, you know, I don’t know that all of you are Latino. Some of you look a little more Asian to me. I don’t know that.”

She added, “What we know, what we know about ourselves is that we are a melting pot in this country. My grandchildren are evidence of that. I’m evidence of that. I’ve been called the first Asian legislator in our Nevada state Assembly.”

Rios noticed something. When Angle said some of you look Asian, Angle was looking at her.

“She was referring to me, looking straight at me in the eye,” Rios said. “All the people around her noticed that she was talking to me. Then I smiled and said I wasn’t Asian. I kind of do look Asian but I’m not.”

Rios’ parents come from Guatemala. Her mother is a housekeeper and her father is an unemployed construction worker. She told a reporter later that one Filipino boy was at the assembly.

After the Asian remarks, the students say Angle’s aides quickly hustled her out the door.

Tapia, who plans to go to college, was reflective about the experience. “I took away from this whole thing that you shouldn’t listen to political ads and commercials.”

She added, “You should, like, look at the facts that both candidates say and just research more to see who you really want to vote for.” She noted that by Tuesday morning, the buzz in school about Angle had died down.

Meanwhile, in Room 513, the lecture hall where Angle spoke last week, four “Angle for Senate” signs lie on a table. No one has picked them up.

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  1. This woman is completely out of control. We simply CANNOT vote for her to represent our great state. We would be the laughing stock of the entire nation.
    Harry Reid is by far the more qualified of the two candidates. Please, do the right thing and keep this racist out of office.

  2. "'It was, like, confusing,' recalled Yvonne Tapia, 16, who was there. 'She didn't answer our questions well. It was more like babble, just talking and talking and talking.'

    Alex Mata, 15, said he was offended by Angle's answers and her television commercials. 'If she can't answer smart questions from high school students,' he said, 'how is she going to do it when she's higher up there' in the Senate?"

    Just wanted to point out that these two teenagers possess considerable amounts of rationality and common sense...way, way more than even some of the ultra-right wing neo-conservative commenters on Las Vegas Sun articles regarding Sharron Angle.

    There IS hope for the future of Nevada and the nation.

    These teenagers couldn't have said it any better. And they aren't even of voting age, but they sure are politically savvy.

  3. aBadReid says: "Enough said. If the Hispanics want to vote for Reid, FINE, go ahead and vote for him."

    Don't worry. The Nevada Hispanic American voters see what's going on. They WILL vote.

    This nuttiness of Sharron Angle, mixed with the advertisement in Spanish and English telling Hispanic voters not to vote (that was pulled and rejected by Unavision because it was clearly a neo-conservative Republican tactic), will ensure they appear at the voting booths en masse.

    And the Republicans are not going to like it when they flex their muscle. Republicans have awoken a sleeping giant.

  4. memo to abadreid:

    Dude...
    If I were going to run a website dedicated to defeating Harry Reid, I would question the use of the following lingo to buffer my position in response to the umpteenth GAFFE by my candidate;

    "Honestly, who give a rats."

    Obviously, a lot of Nevadans "give a rats."

    November 2nd, we ALL NEED to give a rats.

    Unless you want SIX YEARS of this unadulterated B.S. from your U.S. Senator,

    Give a RATS #SS...

    VOTE for HARRY REID!

  5. "After the Asian remarks, the students say Angle's aides quickly hustled her out the door."
    **********
    Haven't we seen this 'speak and dash' routine from Sharron before? She was insulting and condescending to these teenagers, most who may not be old enough to vote, but their parents are. Geesh, she's a loon. One other thing, Angle speaks in meandering non-sequiters, much like Palin. Is this a loony right tactic meant to confuse or are they just truly not that intelligent?

  6. I say they are not too intelligent, sandy99.

    Good observations.

  7. What a biased report, Angle makes an odd remark that is headline news over and over and yet not a word when Reid sticks his foot in mouth. Harry should be paying you guys for all the free advertisment you give him. One more term with Harry in office will probably be the last nail in the coffin for Nevada.

  8. The problem with telling lies is that once you tell one you have to tell 2 to cover that one up. Then 4 to cover those 2 then 8 to cover the 4 soon you have told so many you can't remember them all . Then everyone can see the liar that you are ........................

  9. She added, "What we know, what we know about ourselves is that we are a melting pot in this country. My grandchildren are evidence of that. I'm evidence of that. I've been called the first Asian legislator in our Nevada state Assembly."

    Rios noticed something. When Angle said some of you look Asian, Angle was looking at her.

    "She was referring to me, looking straight at me in the eye," Rios said. "All the people around her noticed that she was talking to me. Then I smiled and said I wasn't Asian. I kind of do look Asian but I'm not."

    Rios' parents come from Guatemala. Her mother is a housekeeper and her father is an unemployed construction worker. She told a reporter later that one Filipino boy was at the assembly.

    After the Asian remarks, the students say Angle's aides quickly hustled her out the door.

    NOTICE THE LAST SENTENCE, "Angle's aides quickly hustled her out the door"

    Haaahaa, I thought she was saying something non-offesive?

    T-Gaggers please come explain her racism, how it isn't racism?

    Pretty please, your laughable!

  10. Most anthropologists believe that "Native Americans" crossed the land bridge from an area that is now Indonesia. Since "Hispanics are part Native American and European, they are Asian.....now back to the Glen Buck Show..

    There coming to take me away h ha there coming to take me away, those men in the white suits...

  11. "It's HARRY REID'S FAULT!!!"

    It just doesn't get any stupider than that.

    In defense of every lying, stupid, ignorant thing Sharrron Angle says;
    "It's Harry Reid's fault."

    Nobody is buying that crap; ARE THEY???

  12. mred and Ms. Angle are right! If we had only protected the Canadian border properly, there would only be white folks in Mexico, Central and South America and all of us would be safe from THEM because those Asians couldn't have come down to mix the races. But no racism is implied.

    And somewhere around half of Nevadans say they will vote for THAT?

  13. KeolaGOP...more racist, NutJob foolery.

  14. Looks like Ms. Angle alienated the Asian & Hispanic votes. Let's see what she says about the Jews.

  15. Ms Angle was failing to defend her policies in front of a group of teenagers.

    Do you think she can defend the Nevada interest on the senate?

    FAIL!!!

  16. Too much xenophobia in the tea party. I'm surprised they let immigrant from Australia, Rupert Murdock, into their group.