For Nevada voters, economic woes reign supreme

The Washington Post's Philip Rucker journeys across America talking with voters to get to the heart of this volatile moment in American politics.
By Philip Rucker
Monday, November 1, 2010; 1:49 AM

HENDERSON, Nev. - Tricia Baker is frustrated. Her husband just took a pay cut at work. Her four grown children are looking for jobs but none has found one. She doesn't think the politicians in Washington are doing anything to help.

And as she surveys her options to vote here in Tuesday's marquee election between Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and tea party darling Sharron Angle, Baker doesn't like what she sees.

"Oh, heck no," said Baker, 43, a medical assistant. "Reid has too much power, has been there too long and hasn't done nothing for the state. And Angle is just way too extreme for me."

"But it is what it is," Baker continued. "Now you're down to one or the other. What do you do? Well, I want the one in there out of there."

Along Margarita Avenue, a working-class neighborhood in this sprawling Las Vegas suburb, where Nevada's economic chaos is felt in every cluttered driveway or unkempt yard and where foreclosure signs seem marbled into the landscape, many of Baker's neighbors share her distaste for both Reid and Angle.

Both campaigns are heavily courting the voters here and in other Las Vegas suburbs. On Saturday, three volunteers for Angle showed up to canvass on Margarita Avenue.

Some voters interviewed on a windy afternoon said they would settle for for Reid again only because they believed he is better positioned to steer federal investments - and, they hope, new jobs - to the area. But others, like Baker, said they felt so stung by Washington they would vote for someone else, even if that someone is a woman they deem too extreme or ill-prepared.

Carson Hall, 51, an executive assistant who was laid off this summer when the nonprofit where she worked shut down, said she already voted.

"I really didn't think I'd vote for Harry Reid - until Sharron Angle," Hall said. "I went ahead and voted for Harry. It was really just a vote against her. It's the lesser of two evils."

Hall's husband, Steve, a tower crane operator, has been out of work for two years, ever since construction of casino-hotels on the Las Vegas Strip ground to a halt. His government unemployment benefits are due to run out in two weeks.

"We can't make our mortgage payments now," Carson Hall said. "It's very scary. I don't know what the solution is at this time. We're just in really deep."

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