RENO, Nev. (AP) -- State Sen. Bill Raggio, one of Nevada's most influential Republicans over the last four decades, said Thursday he's endorsing U.S. Senate Democratic Majority Leader Harry Reid's re-election campaign.
Raggio sharply criticized Reid's GOP opponent, Sharron Angle, saying he was willing to overlook how she lied and distorted his record during a bitter 2008 primary that he won but couldn't ignore her legislative record.
"What is difficult to overlook is her record of being totally ineffective as a four-term assemblywoman, her inability or unwillingness to work with others even within her own party, and her extreme positions on issues such as Medicare, Social Security, education, veterans affairs and many others," the Reno lawmaker said in a statement.
Raggio, first elected to the Nevada Senate in 1972 and its top GOP leader for decades, said Angle's badmouthing of GOP leaders in a recent secretly taped conversation removed any concern about coming out in support of Reid, who is in a dead-heat race with Angle.
Angle spokesman Jerry Stacy reiterated Angle's 2008 campaign charge that Raggio is a "good ol' boy career politician" who does not believe in Republican principles.
"Sharron Angle has been a loyal fighter for taxpayers, and it's ludicrous to imagine that Sharron would expect any endorsement from somebody who has spent their legislative career promoting billions in new taxes and higher spending on the backs of hard-working Nevadans," Stacy said in a statement.
Reno Mayor Bob Cashell and Sparks Mayor Geno Martini, both Republicans, also have come out in support of Reid.
While Raggio does not support many of Reid's stands on issues, he said Reid was the only Senate candidate who sought his endorsement.
"I believe he understands that he must vote more strongly to represent the views of his Nevada constituency in the future rather than a liberal agenda which many feel drifts toward socialism in America," Raggio said. "With that caveat, I will reluctantly vote for Senator Reid's re-election."
Reid welcomed Raggio's support and noted the senator had never endorsed a Democrat in a major race.
"I am honored to have the support of Senator Bill Raggio, a man I deeply respect not only for his commitment to public service but his love for this state," Reid said in a statement.
Former Rep. Barbara Vucanovich, R-Nev., who served in 1983-97 as the first woman to represent Nevada in Congress, said she tried unsuccessfully to get Angle to make peace with Raggio.
"We have enough problems within our party without this," Vucanovich told The Associated Press. "I think Bill has done a great deal for the state, and his words carry a lot of weight. I think it may hurt her campaign, and I'm sorry she wouldn't make amends with him."
David Damore, a University of Nevada, Las Vegas political science professor, thinks Raggio's endorsement of Reid would help solidify Angle's support with her core constituency. But he said the endorsement could help Reid with wavering voters.
"For a voter in northern Nevada who might be uncertain how they'll vote, that's a pretty good cue if the entire Republican establishment is lining up against her," he said.
(Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)