It’s a snowy day in Concord when we sit down with Nevada’s Sharron Angle but she is unfazed by the blizzard conditions, having left 18 inches of show in her front yard in Reno. Best known as the woman who almost unseated Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Angle comes across as a highly principled yet modest figure. She made her entrée into politics when her son had to repeat kindergarten in his public school. When Angle saw how miserable and discouraged he was during his second year, she decided to home school him. The school resisted, “and that’s when I realized that the government had interfered with my life and my children’s life,” she says. She fought for the right to home school, and eventually established a Christian school with several other families.
This brings her back to her official business in the Granite State, which is to promote Christian film The Genesis Code. The film’s theme is the relationship between faith and science, a subject close to her heart. “Why can’t we teach both evolution and creation? Why can’t we give children the choice?”
Angle still channels the fiery spirit she was known for on the campaign trail when it comes to talking policy. When our conversation turns to energy, she contends that Americans need to be concerned about more than painful prices as the pump, stating that the Middle East unrest “is impacting us right now on the streets in America. Our dependence on foreign oil supplies has really put us in a precarious position as far as even the way that we look at our diplomacy when it comes to dealing with other nations…So lots of people call that ‘drill here, drill now’ – me too.”
Angle is also adamant about decreasing the size and scope of the federal government, a top campaign trail issue for her and other tea party-backed candidates. She expresses concern about what she sees as the Obama administration’s increasing push to enact policies through regulatory agencies like the EPA. “I’m a very constitutional person, I think laws should be legislated,” she says, “Whenever you get laws coming through a regulatory system or an executive order or any way that goes around that elective process you’re really circumventing freedom at its most basic level.”
Addressing the possibility of a government shutdown, Angle offers some of the down-to-earth pragmatism that helped her contrast herself with the more distant and polished Sen. Reid. “This is probably where my experience have been married to someone who was employed by the federal government makes me very pragmatic,” she says, explaining that her husband was laid off under a prior government shut down as a non-essential employee, “That should give us pause right there; that there are non-essential employees and non-essential agencies should send up a huge red flag that there’s more going on in government than we can afford.” To add insult to injury from Angle’s perspective, her husband and other “non-essentials” were paid back wages once they returned to work, so color her skeptical about whether the rhetoric of a “shutdown” will ever become reality.
While she doesn’t offer much input about the upcoming 2012 Presidential race and the slew of potential candidates, Angle does address the controversy over former Massachusetts Gov, Mitt Romney’s controversial statewide health care reforms. While she doesn’t exactly defend “Romneycare,” she does pivot to turn the pressure up on President Obama’s federal health care reform law, “’Massachusetts-care’ may be the same type of single payer stuff, but at least if you don’t like it in Massachusetts you can move to New Hampshire,” she says, adding that Obamacare “flies in the face of our Constitution.”
Does President Obama owe the American people an apology? “Yes I think he does, and Senator Harry Reid,” she says, “but for more than just Obamacare.”
Angle reserves her harshest words for her former opponent Harry Reid. “I don’t feel that he needs to be in leadership, and I think that the country is pretty much united behind that effort as well from what we’ve seen in 2010.” While it didn’t carry Angle to victory, the 2010 “throw the bums out” momentum took her from a little-known State Assemblywoman to a narrow five point loss to one of America’s longest-serving Senators, in a tough race where Angle contends that a biased national press and organized labor went to bat for the embattled Reid.
Does Angle think Reid learned from his close shave? “The evidence is that he did not. He’s still pushing the same policies in Washington, DC…he’s not listening to bills, he’s not hearing bills. He’s not listening to the people any more than he was before, and he still seems to be out of touch with the mainstream of America.”
Angle returns to that theme of listening and relating to everyday Americans throughout our conversation, particularly when discussing her political future.
“I think once you get into this and understand that ordinary people need to run for office that you really do look at ‘do I need to run again?’” says Angle, and then tells what is obviously a treasured story of a mother she met on the campaign trail. “She came to me and said, ‘I told my son that he could become the President of the United States, but I wasn’t sure it was possible because it seems like you have to have money, or position, or something that recommends you besides just being a citizen, and yet you’re a citizen, and you have come from citizenry to this position where you could win one of the highest positions in the United States.’”
“Once you enter this arena, you realize it takes courage, that our Founding Fathers wanted us to be involved, that they gave us a government of the people, by the people, for the people, and they expected us to be the representatives, not some ruling elite class of career politicians,” Angle says, “They wanted us, us the people, to go into that arena, serve for a while, and go back to our own jobs.”
See below for selected video excerpts from our interview:
Amelia Chassé contributed to this report