GOP front-runner Sue Lowden: Sen. Harry Reid’s out of touch |

GOP front-runner Sue Lowden: Sen. Harry Reid’s out of touch

Cathleen Allison/Nevada Appeal

Describing Nevada as a “center right” state, Republican Senate front-runner Sue Lowden says she will replace Harry Reid in the U.S. Senate by appealing to a broad spectrum of Nevadans, not just a few groups on the right.

Lowden said she supported Reid in the past, when “he was a Blue Dog Democrat.”

“In 30 years, he’s changed,” she said in an interview Thursday in Carson City. “He’s become a Washington insider and gone way over to the left. I do think Nevada is a center-right state and that Harry Reid has lost touch.”

Lowden is one of a dozen Republicans who have announced challenges to Reid, the Senate majority leader who is seeking a fourth term.

If elected, Lowden said her plan would be to cut the burden on businesses, put people back to work and put the money in their pockets rather than give it to the government.

She said that would include cutting the payroll tax and the corporate income tax so U.S. businesses “could be more competitive in the global market” and stop industries from moving to India, China and other places.

The capital gains tax should be reduced or even eliminated because, under the current system, “people get penalized for taking a risk and making some money,” she said.

And she said the estate tax should be eliminated: “It’s astonishing anyone would put a tax on you when you die.”

Lowden served one term in the Nevada Senate in the 1990s, rising to majority whip and chairman of the taxation committee.

During that term, she drew fire from the powerful Las Vegas culinary union over her votes to reform the industrial insurance system and her husband Paul’s efforts to stop union organizers in the couple’s casino properties.

Most recently, she was state director of the Republican Party. She resigned to run against Reid.

Lowden said the health care debate now nearing a final vote in Congress was a major missed opportunity. She said breaking that bill into a collection of specific pieces of legislation would have enabled significant reform.

She said she supports barring insurers from denying coverage for pre-existing conditions: “Wouldn’t there have been unanimous consent for that?”

She said she also supports portability of insurance coverage and allowing people to buy insurance across state lines: “We should all be able to have health insurance and take it to the next job.”

She said there was no attempt at tort reform, limiting lawsuits that she says are driving costs through the roof and encouraging costly and bad medical practice.

“Let’s face it, doctors are over-testing and over-prescribing because they’re fearful of being sued,” she said. “They wanted to reduce costs and wanted to have health care more accessible. I don’t see where this bill does that.”

Lowden borrowed one of Rep. Dean Heller’s mantras, saying if the proposed legislation is so good, members of Congress should use it instead of their excellent, publicly paid for plan.

Lowden said she isn’t feeling pressure to hew to the political right because of the huge conservative turnout typical of Republican primaries in Nevada.

“I haven’t been tempted to take any positions I’m not comfortable taking,” she said.

Listing factions from the far right to party moderates, she said, “I believe my appeal will be to all of the above. I’m confident Republicans are going to look at every candidate and decide for themselves who the best candidate is.”

She said her position on one issue has changed: “I voted for choice in 1990.”

Since then, she said ultrasound images and other technology have convinced her life begins at conception and the stigma of bearing a child out of wedlock has greatly reduced. Now, she said, she does not support abortion rights.

Lowden had different reactions to the bank bail-out legislation and the stimulus package.

On bail-out spending: “It’s easy to say, no, I wouldn’t have voted for it. But people were panicked, we were facing collapse – that’s what they were saying. It’s easy to say from a distance I would have voted no, but I can’t do that.”

On the stimulus, she said she would have been a definite no: “All you’re doing is taking money from one person and putting it in the pocket of another person. They should have put money into people’s pockets.”

While she has to first get through the June primary election, Lowden is – according to recent polls – the front-runner in her race. She is also, according to the most recent poll by a Las Vegas newspaper, substantially ahead of Reid.

Lowden, 57, has lived in Nevada since 1978 when she was hired at KLAS-TV Las Vegas as a reporter. She was there more than a decade, most of it as a news anchor.

Before that, she was Miss New Jersey and second runner-up in the Miss America Pageant in 1973. She entered beauty contests, she said, for the scholarship money which paid for her college education. Lowden holds a master’s degree from Fairleigh Dickinson University.

She has a long history of community involvement in Southern Nevada including as a member of the Miss America Pageant board, which is headquartered there, a founder of Nevada Child Seeker and other organizations.

She has been married to longtime Las Vegas casino owner Paul Lowden more than 26 years. The couple has four children and a granddaughter.

According to recently filed financial disclosure documents, they have a combined worth of more than $50 million.