Archive for May, 2010

Public Employee Retirement Board Authorizes Study to Look at Impact of Reform

By Sean Whaley | 4:25 pm May 28th, 2010

CARSON CITY – Both Democrat and Republican lawmakers agree the 2011 legislative session will likely see a debate about the future of Nevada’s public employee pension program, but differences remain over whether radical change is needed to protect the state from a multi-billion long-term unfunded liability.

The $9 billion question is whether the Public Employees Retirement System should be converted to a “defined contribution” program for new hires, or whether the “defined benefit” plan now in place for state and local government employees, including teachers, should be preserved.

In anticipation that the future of Nevada’s public pension program will be a topic of discussion in 2011, the board that oversees the program voted last week to undertake an analysis of what a conversion to a defined contribution would mean in terms of cost and required regulatory changes, said Tina Leiss, operations officer for PERS.

“It is not something the board is proposing,” she said. “They want to be prepared to provide facts.”

The study is expected to come to the board for review this fall, Leiss said. It is being performed by the system’s current actuary at no additional cost.

PERS officials argue that major changes to the plan are unnecessary because the contributions flowing into the plan from government and public employees, combined with an estimated 8 percent rate of return on investments over time, will see the plan fully funded in the next 30 years. The contribution rates are recommended by an actuary, approved by the seven-member PERS board and the Legislature every two years.

The Nevada Legislature has always endorsed the contribution rate approved by the PERS board, and those contributions have not been diverted to other uses as has occurred in some others states.

The state retirement plan was estimated to have a long-term unfunded liability of $9.1 billion on June 30, 2009. At its high point the state public pension plan was 85 percent fully funded. It now stands at 72.5 percent.

A recent study of state and local government pension funds by the Pew Center on the States identified Nevada as one of 19 states where “serious concerns” exist about the long-term health of the retirement plan.

The question of what state and local governments should do to resolve the long-term financial uncertainty of their public pension plans is a concern nationally. A number of independent reviews have shown that many of the plans are underfunded and not likely to remain solvent over the long term.

A new report suggests the federal government and taxpayers nationally could end up bailing out the underfunded plans.

Assemblyman Pete Goicoechea, R-Eureka, said he believes the time has come to change the plan to defined contribution, which would provide new public employees a contribution to their retirement that they would then invest on their own behalf.

“It’s going to be tough enough to keep it afloat as it is,” he said.

The current plan called defined benefit, where public employees are guaranteed a specified retirement income upon retirement based on salary and number of years of service, cannot be continued, Goicoechea said.

While employee recruitment and retention would likely be a problem going forward, the pension plan needs to change to bring it more into line with what is offered in the private sector, he said.

Assemblywoman Sheila Leslie, D-Reno, said an estimated $3 billion general fund budget shortfall for the next two-year state budget means all issues have to be debated in the session, including the public employee retirement system.

“I think, when you are $3 billion short, you have to look at the basic structure,” she said. “So we have to look at structural changes, both on the expense side and the revenue side. So I am not willing to exclude anything.”

But Leslie said at this point she believes the defined benefit plan should be continued.

Requiring public employees to make their own investment choices could jeopardize their retirement if the stock market suffers downturns as it is doing right now, she said. The result could be retirees with inadequate retirement income, which could then lead the state to deal with the problem, Leslie said.

Senate Majority Leader Steven Horsford, D-Las Vegas, acknowledges that the public pension program, and whether it needs reform, will be one of the top issues in front of lawmakers next session.

But the Legislature has acted to keep the retirement plan funded by adjusting contribution rates paid both by public employers and their employees, he said. There seems to be an assumption by some that if everyone retired today that a $9 billion bill would come due, but that is not how retirement plans work, Horsford said.

The potential for a change to a defined contribution plan is not the only reform proposal on the table. The SAGE Commission has also recommended a number of changes to the current defined benefit plan to bring pension costs down. The Spending and Government Efficiency panel appointed by Gov. Jim Gibbons to review government operations did not recommend a change to a defined contribution plan, however.

SAGE commission recommendations include setting a minimum retirement age of 60 before benefits can be paid out. Regular employees in the plan can now retire at any age with 30 years of service.

Other recommendations include calculating the retirement benefit over five years of pay, not the current three highest pay years and imposing a moratorium on any benefit enhancements until the plan is fully funded.

All three Republican candidates for governor advocate a change to a defined contribution plan, saying such a program would be more in line with what is offered in the private sector.

The expected Democrat candidate, Rory Reid, has not yet come to any conclusion on what changes, if any, are needed to the plan, saying those who hold opposing views need to first come to some consensus on the issue.

The 2009 Legislature did make some modest changes to the retirement plan for new hires starting Jan. 1, 2010, including increasing the retirement age after 10 years of service to age 62 from 60.

Any changes to the plan would affect only new hires. The pension plan has been determined to be a vested property right for current employees that cannot be changed.

Audio files:

052810Goicoechea1 :16 is defined contribution.”

052810Leslie1 :10 the current system.”

052810Horsford1 :23 it’s an issue.”

Our Country Deserves Better PAC, aka the Tea Party Express, Tees Up Mailer & TV Ads for Angle to Clark County GOP Voters

By Elizabeth Crum | 9:46 pm May 27th, 2010

Here’s the mailer going out from OCDB PAC to Clark County GOP voters very soon:


11 days…

Update (9:40 PM): The mailer is going out to 40,000 households, says a TPE spokesperson.


They will be up with Angle ads on the following TV stations as of tomorrow:





Fox News Las Vegas Valley

Fox News Nellis AFB

Fox News Pahrump

The Weather Channel – Las Vegas

Speedway – Las Vegas

Golf Channel – Las Vegas

KPVM (Pahrump)

Angle v. Reid in the General: A Referendum on Tea Party and Anybody-But-Harry Movement

By Elizabeth Crum | 2:59 pm May 27th, 2010

So says the uber-Lefty blogger (please don’t feel slighted, all you Other Lefties) at Las Vegas Gleaner in a throw-down-esque post about Angle and the Tea Partiers vs. The Reid Machine today.

Hugh’s comments in full:

Republicans MUST nominate crazy Sharron Angle (unless they’re chicken)

The Chicken Lady demonstrated yet again this week that neither she nor her highly touted, highly paid campaign advisers are ready for prime time.
Jerry Tarkanian’s office-shopping son has never been in danger of winning a general election, and gives no indication that he ever will be.

And as for Sharron Angle, it must be said that upon reflection, comparing her to Rand Paul is deeply unfair … to Rand Paul. He is orders of magnitude more articulate and intelligent then she is.So while the conventional wisdom holds that Angle is the weakest candidate against Harry Reid, that’s probably overstated; each Republican weirdo seems about as electable (or unelectable) as the other.

But all Nevadans — Democrats, Republicans and independents alike — should still hope that Angle wins the primary.

The rich man’s wife and the coach’s kid are opportunistic charlatans ready and willing to vacillate and equivocate to win votes, i.e., standard-issue and unremarkable politicians. If Republicans nominate either of them, the Senate race will merely be a bloody and tawdry affair pitting “Anybody but Reid” sentiment against Reid’s relentless and ruthless scorched-earth campaign machine (the likes of which Nevada has never seen, judging by its impressive performance thus far).

Angle, however, believes all the nonsense that is coming out of her mouth. She is the real deal, the genuine article, the unapologetic and unwavering champion of full-on teatardation. If Republicans nominate her, the race will be as much a referendum on the tea party movement as on Reid. Teanuts and their apologists in the media love to tell anyone who will listen that mainstream voters just can’t wait to embrace America’s latest orgy of anti-intellectual paranoid populism. Fine. Let’s put it to a vote.

Tarkanian Reports $86K Cash On Hand

By Elizabeth Crum | 2:45 pm May 27th, 2010

From Team Tark just now:

“We are fully confident that we are going to win this race.”

Right.  Because the only poll that matters is the one on __________ .

Key data:

  • TOTAL RAISED TO DATE: $1,491,323
  • CANDIDATE LOANS: $185,081.88
  • COH: $86,564.94

Action Is Brewing Endorsements

By Elizabeth Crum | 2:36 pm May 27th, 2010

Tea Party activist-organizer Debbie Landis is out with her group’s election endorsements.

The page says candidate recommendations were “finalized using AIB Subscriber and grassroots polls, voting record when applicable, issue stances, prior endorsements, and interaction with the candidates themselves.”


“These candidates were selected based entirely on their skill-sets, credibility and grassroots ratings as they apply to Transparency, Accountability, and Fiscal Responsibility.”

Agree or disagree?  Chime in by leaving a Comment below.

Adieu, O Self Destructive Senator

By Elizabeth Crum | 10:30 am May 27th, 2010

Not sure whether the End will come by resignation or defeat at the polls on June 8, but either way, as cleverly hashtagged by @RalstonFlash on Twitter this morning, #youcantfixdumb.

How so?

State Senator Dennis Nolan this week left a voice message (for the sister of the rape victim of his convicted friend) that sounds an awful lot like a bribe.

In the way of an after-explanation, Nolan told the RJ he never intended to actually pay the woman — just to trick her into talking while he secretly recorded her.

Yeah, that’s a much more noble pursuit.

Here is the voice message (complements of Elizabeth Halseth’s campaign website).

Here is the RJ’s story.

And here is Heidi Harris’ interview with the parties this morning (it’s the top item on her “On Demand” list on the right side of the page).  The sister-in-question’s commentary is compelling it its passionate delivery.

And so it is that in one of the more astounding events in an already amazing, surprising campaign season, Senator Nolan has handily handed the primary race to his challenger.

After thought:

Ms. Halseth must feel just delighted (and perhaps grateful) that she was pressured and persuaded by the Powers-That-Be to switch from the AD-13 to the SD-9 primary race in the final hours of filing.  While all the CD-1 GOP candidates are wound-licking after their respective primary and general election losses, Elizabeth Halseth will be all a-glow in her role as a brand new state senator.

Angle’s Tsunami: Can We Please, PLEASE Think of a New Metaphor?

By Elizabeth Crum | 10:03 am May 27th, 2010

Maybe I’m just grouchy because we’ve been covering campaigns for nine months and June 8 still seems way too far away.  Nevertheless:

Must Sharron Angle continue to repeatedly refer to the “tsunami” of conservativism that is moving “in waves” across the country?  I have heard it uttered at least a dozen times just this past week and shudder to contemplate the total count over the course of the past many months.

And:  has it ever occurred to Angle that a land-hitting tsunami often causes utter devastation and destruction to all who are unfortunate enough to be in its path?  Not sure it’s the best descriptor for Angle’s Tea Party-esque and pet political causes.

(Or is it?)

Wanna take bets on whether Team Reid will use the term (and the frightening visions it musters) to help turn the tide against her if Angle faces him in the general?

I can just see the TV ad starring all of Angle’s most controversial positions over background video of a giant tsunami washing away all that is good and right in America…

Senate Majority Leader Horsford Declines to Explain Decision to Replace Veteran Staffer

By Sean Whaley | 9:30 am May 27th, 2010

CARSON CITY – Senate Majority Leader Steven Horsford said he is confident a qualified candidate will be found to serve as secretary to the Senate for the 2011 session and that the upper house will continue to be run in a way that serves both the 21 senators and the people of Nevada.

Horsford, D-Las Vegas, declined to comment on why he asked Senate secretary Claire Clift to step down Tuesday after 10 years, saying it was a personnel issue and not for public discussion. He praised her years of service but said it was time to make a change.

He said the position description, when posted, will spell out the expectations and qualifications wanted in the next Senate secretary.

Clift said Tuesday only that Horsford wanted to take the Senate in a new direction and that she accepted his decision to make a change as his right as majority leader.

Horsford said the Senate secretary position will be advertised with an expectation that candidates both from within the Legislature and externally will apply for the position.

Horsford said he has no candidates in mind for the job, which is critical to ensuring rules are followed and the legislative process runs smoothly.

“I am sure there will be a strong slate of candidates who are qualified and who have experience both in legislative and government work who will apply,” he said.

Senate Minority Leader Bill Raggio, R-Reno said Horsford advised him of his decision but said only that it was necessary to make a change.

Serving as Senate secretary is tough job and Clift performed well, he said.

Whoever is selected as the new secretary “will have to hit the ground running,” Raggio said.

The Legislature faces a number of serious issues in 2011, from a $3 billion budget shortfall to the redrawing of legislative and Congressional political boundaries.

Sen. Maurice Washington, R-Sparks, called the decision to replace the Senate secretary unprecedented in his 16 years of service in the Senate. Washington has been term-limited out of office and won’t be serving in 2011.

“Claire was a good lady, and I don’t think she really deserved her fate,” he said.

Washington said Horsford has the right to make a change, but that it could cause problems in the 2011 session if the new staff doesn’t know the procedures of how the Senate operates. Washington also said he does not know Horsford’s reasons for replacing Clift.

Former state Sen. Mark Amodei, R-Carson City, said he is hopeful the next Senate secretary will have clearly demonstrated qualifications for the position.

“There is a pretty specific set of things that need to happen,” he said. “Procedure is a big deal. I guess the story won’t be finished until we see who the replacement is and what the person’s qualifications are.

“If the rules become a secondary thing it creates a mess for everybody on both sides of the aisle,” Amodei said. “It creates a potential legal playground the state doesn’t need at this point in time.”

Amodei, who was termed out of office and won’t be serving in the 2011 session, said Clift served under then-Senate secretary Jan Thomas for several years before taking the position herself.

“There was some pretty good overlap,” said Amodei, who recently was named as chairman of the Nevada State Republican Party. “We had someone who knew the ropes so the process would go smoothly.”

Horsford said changes of personnel happen on a regular basis and the Senate and Legislature as a whole has and will continue to adjust to those changes.

The strong foundation created by Clift and other Senate staff will ensure the upper house continues to operate effectively for senators and the people of Nevada, he said.

Writer at LGBT Friendly Publications Declines Invitation to Debate Gay Conservative Activist

By Elizabeth Crum | 9:15 am May 27th, 2010

Question:  How eager is QVegas and Las Vegas Night Beat writer Rob Schlegel to appear on a local conservative radio show to debate Right Pride president Mark Ciavola re: a list of endorsements that recently appeared in the two publications for which he writes?

Answer:  Not very.

Earlier this month, Ciavola, a gay conservative activist, broke out with a scathing open letter to the readers of QVegas, Las Vegas Night Beat and the Las Vegas gay community re: a recently published list of primary election endorsements that also appears on

The letter charged that under the guise of informing the LGBT community about candidates, Rob Schlegel and his “cohorts” have “gone out of their way to continue the long history of spiteful partisanship by the so-called leaders in our community.”

Ciavola’s letter pointed out that in 47 of the 67 races listed, 50 Democrats and only 8 Republicans were endorsed.  The letter also said that Schlegel took “petty swipes” at many of the Republican candidates.

Ciavola alleged that neither Schlegel — the former publisher of the Las Vegas Bugle, a gay-friendly newspaper — nor the staff at QVegas and Las Vegas Night Beat bothered to contact their endorsed candidates for information on their positions on issues.

On that point, Ciavola shared a communication in which Schlegel responded to one Right Pride supporter by saying QVegas is not state-funded or state-supported and does not have the resources to conduct candidate interviews.

However, Ciavola, who runs his small non-profit organization by way of an unpaid staff, said he has conducted over 80 candidate interviews since February 1st.

Ciavola said he believes the gay community needs more informed and objective guidance on political issues and candidates.  He is generally critical of Democrats in Congress for their failure to enact legislation that is important to the gay community and says the days of “gays being liberals by default” are over.

“Every issue that concerns a heterosexual voter also concerns a gay voter,” said Ciavola.

“Why should moderate and conservative gays support a party — meaning the Democrats — that doesn’t represent many of their values and doesn’t get much done even on gay issues?” he asked.

Right Pride members and friends of the group have apparently been emailing and calling QVegas and Las Vegas Night Beat staff to express their dissatisfaction with the endorsements.

In email responses to me this week, Schlegel explained his unwillingness to appear with Ciavola on Mike Wiley’s (1230AM KLAV) radio show tomorrow.

“I’m not marching into a Fox-News-style ambush,” said Schlegel.

“I really am not interested in any type of debate or discussion. I hope one day, a non-partisan, political action committee will evolve,” he later added.

“The emails from Mark’s followers have been anything but pleasant, and I won’t be a party to such antics,” he said.

Schlegel said he is a writer who will continue to respond to questions in writing and that he prefers not to speak in “sound bites” which are the norm in both radio and TV.

He added that all the endorsements are done by a committee and that he is a compiler of the group’s remarks, not a spokesperson for them.

Ciavola said he finds it odd that Schlegel is denying responsibility for the endorsements even though he is the author of the piece and the list of endorsements was posted to, which is described on that website as “a joint effort by Rob Schlegel, QVegas and Las Vegas Night Beat.”

“If they are not responsible, then who is?” asked Ciavola.

“Rob Schlegel is showing a disturbing amount of cowardice for someone who is paid to have his opinions published,” said Ciavola.

“Right Pride will not sit idly by while organizations and publications claiming to represent our entire community engage in spiteful, partisan behavior disguised as educating gays and lesbians,” he said.

Schlegel said Nevada voters are welcome to view his written response and an explanation of the endorsement committee on his blog at  He said the piece will also soon be published in LV Night Beat or QVegas.

As for his role on the committee, Schlegel said he started the it many years ago when he published the Las Vegas Bugle.

“There was no political organization that was set up specifically to deal with an issue,” he said. “Essentially, no one else was looking out for the political interests of the LGBT community. I’ve been asked to participate on that informal committee ever since, but now it’s hosted by QVegas and Night Beat.”

Schlegel dismissed Right Pride is a small group and said he is not aware of “anyone interested in giving them any more press than they’re able to create for themselves.”

“I think the progressives have pretty much ceded talk radio to them, and if we ignore them, maybe they’ll go away,” he said.

“Or as Oscar Wilde once said, “Some cause happiness wherever they go; others whenever they go”", he joked.

But Ciavola seems to be creating some interest in his cause including this piece by Jason Whited over at Las Vegas City Life.

In a confirmation of one of the many claims in Ciavola’s open letter — that in the District 9 state Senate race, Schlegel and the endorsement committee gave the nod to Dennis Nolan based on an (incorrect) claim that he was the only Republican to vote for the new domestic partnership law in the 2009 legislative session — Whited (rightly) writes that Nolan was joined by a number of Republicans in both the Assembly and state Senate in voting for SB 283.

Whited also names further examples of errors in fact in Schlegel’s piece about the endorsements, calling into question the group’s attention to detail.

Or, as Ciavola quipped this week, “their lack of interest in the truth.”

Ciavola says he will still appear on Wiley’s radio show to talk about the issues tomorrow (Friday) from 1pm – 2pm on 1230AM KLAV.

About that Hispanics in Politics Endorsement of Gibbons

By Elizabeth Crum | 9:09 pm May 26th, 2010

Fernando Ramero, president of Hispanics in Politics (HIP), this week explained why Governor Gibbons received the enthusiastic endorsement of his members:

Gibbons was the only one of the three GOP gub candidates who filled out the form asking for it, so when it came time to vote the governor’s name was the only one on their list.

Bet Gibbons wishes he could get that same deal on the  June 8 ballot.

Here is the full endorsement list if you care to see it:


F2F: This Week’s Lowden, Angle, Tarkanian Interviews

By Elizabeth Crum | 8:43 pm May 26th, 2010

All three Face to Face interviews with the three U.S. Senate GOP frontrunners can now be seen here.   (To scroll and/or see previous days, just click on the small arrow in the lower right of the view box.)

If you are a Republican who intends to vote in the primary have not yet made up your mind about these candidates, you should watch them.

My quick three cents:

Tarkanian did as well as I’ve ever seen him do in an interview, and maybe a little better.  At one point he hesitated and gave some thought before answering a question (about taxing online gaming) which tells me he was unscripted (at least on that point).  And Tark did not get testy even when provoked (not that the host would ever do such a thing), which I found notable in light of his reputation for getting a little snippy when pressed.

Angle was herself, which is to say she toed the conservative line and reiterated for the seven-hundredth time that, yes, she really believes she is mainstream enough to beat Harry Reid.  The prison/Scientology thing came up and, interestingly, there was new stuff to say because Ralston had done his homework on the program (which apparently exaggerated its success rate and is now defunct).  Would have been nice if Angle had known that herself, but she did say, quite firmly, “I am not a Scientologist.”

Lowden did as well as could be expected including defending her own record, defending her husband for being rich and taking fat bonuses, and justifying her recent attack ads on Angle.  She declined to answer the should-Civil-Rights-apply-to-private-businesses question (thank you, Rand Paul, for making that part of our national dialogue this week)…but then her team put out an after-show clarifying statement that was Flashed by Ralston a few minutes ago.  The gist:  she is for Civil Rights.

(Thank goodness, because after #bartergate and #busgate, I’m not sure any of us were ready to endure #blackpanthergate.)

Is it June 8 yet?

Lowden Raises $550K, Personally Puts In $488K in Pre-Primary Reporting Period

By Elizabeth Crum | 7:21 pm May 26th, 2010

From Team Lowden re: their April 1 thru May 19 FEC Pre-primary report (and supporting information):

Total Receipts for the pre-primary reporting period (April 1 – May 19):   $1,038,662.16

Total (personal) Contributions for the pre-primary reporting period (April 1 – May 19):   $488,662.16

Total Disbursements for the pre-primary reporting period (April 1 – May 19):   $1,098,231.63

Cash on Hand:   $209,325.03 (as of 5/19/2010)


Total Receipts for the entire campaign cycle:   $3,210,873.62

65% of the campaigns receipts to date have been contributed by Nevadans.

Plus a little dig at Angle (who we can assume is “some opponents”):

The amount of each contribution ranges from $.10 to $4,800, and the occupations of these contributors include Janitor and Housekeeper…work that some opponents have condescendingly said “Americans don’t do.”

Nevada Hispanic Caucus Says U.S. Senate Candidate Sharron Angle Offends Hispanic-American Citizens

By Elizabeth Crum | 6:13 pm May 26th, 2010

Seems one of Nevada’s only conservative Hispanic special interest groups – the Nevada Hispanic Caucus – is none too happy with Sharron Angle re: some comments she made.

See their press release, in which they call her out for saying custodial work is something “Americans don’t do” and characterize her remarks as “demeaning and discriminatory rhetoric”:

05 26 10 NV Hisp Caucus re Angle

Here’s a Headline You Don’t See Every Day: “Holy Republican Herpes Batman! – That’s some rough GOP-on-GOP trash talk”

By Elizabeth Crum | 3:24 pm May 26th, 2010

Samantha Stone reports on a virulent comment I guess we missed after Sharron Angle was on the air with Sam Shad today.

Apparently GOP activist Bill Brainard called Angle “Republican herpes.”

Here’s Sam’s post:

As the days close in on the would-be Harry Reid challengers, Sharron Angle’s getting some #30 grit sandpaper applied to her political hide by establishment Republicans. According to KOH news on Tuesday afternoon, State Senator Bill Raggio warned recently that an Angle victory on June 8 will send Republicans running into the arms of Harry Reid.

Then, Republican activist Bill Brainard described Angle on a Nevada Newsmakers pundit panel as “Republican herpes.” By which one assumes he means that she won’t go away. That’s the charitable interpretation.

Are they helping to set Angle up as the next Rand Paul? Will Republican warnings that a Democrat is preferable to Angle – notwithstanding said Democrat’s powerful position –push primary voters who are sitting on the Lowden-Angle fence into Angle’s camp? The Reasonable Reporter doubts that was the intention, but will it be the result?

And what will a fence-sitting, but sufficiently p.o.’d conservative voter do after hearing Angle characterized as a venereal disease?

This is not a normal political year. Let’s tick off a few of the names that remind us of it. Bob Bennett… Charlie Crist… Trey Grayson… Will Sharron Angle claim victory next month with the unwitting help of Republicans who would like to stop her?

GOP Senate Candidate Sharron Angle Says Attacks from Lowden a “Distraction” from Real Issues

By Sean Whaley | 2:17 pm May 26th, 2010

CARSON CITY – GOP U.S. Senate candidate Sharron Angle said today the attacks on her campaign from opponent Sue Lowden trying to link her to the Church of Scientology are off base and a distraction from the real issues of concern to voters.

Angle, who is gaining momentum in the GOP primary for the chance to take on U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, said she will continue to focus on the real issues as the June 8 primary approaches.

“Harry Reid has failed Nevada with high unemployment; high foreclosure rates,” she said. “He has failed America with a bailout; the stimulus; Obamacare. He needs to be fired. That is our focus.”

Angle said she has created a broad coalition of support – from the Tea Party Express to gun owners to the group Nevada Concerned Citizens – that will enable her to defeat Reid in November. Republicans will not be able to take down Reid without support from independent voters and conservative Democrats, she said.

“We know Republicans can’t fire Harry Reid all by ourselves,” Angle said. “We need some help.”

Angle was interviewed on the Nevada NewsMakers television program.

Lowden, who has been the front runner in the multi-candidate GOP primary, last week started running an ad attacking Angle for voting on pay hikes as a member of the state Assembly and for pushing legislation in 2003 aimed at reducing recidivism among female prison inmates using a program supported by the Church of Scientology.

“I am not a Scientologist, I have no connections with the Church of Scientology,” she said.

But Angle questioned why the issue is being raised in the campaign.

“When a campaign or any kind of a race disintegrates to attacks on religion you have to wonder what’s going on.  How did religion even get into this discussion?” Angle said. “We do still have the freedom of religion and our First Amendment.”

Angle said she wanted Nevada lawmakers to see the Second Chance program in operation in a prison in Mexico in 2003 because of a belief it had merit. The issue was did Nevada want to stop recidivism, she said.

The effort was abandoned after it was “demonized” and “politicized,” because of the 2003 tax debate, Angle said.

Angle also said she continues to support off-shore drilling despite the oil leak in the Gulf because the U.S. needs to end its dependence on foreign oil. Angle said the Gulf leak was an accident and a cleanup is under way.

“We need to go forward and talk about prevention, and not about whether we keep it out all together,” she said. “We have oil reserves and petroleum reserves we should tap into.”