Nevada Secretary of State Ross Miller (D), after conferring with legal personnel in Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto’s (D) office, ruled that the state’s special election law does not give exclusive candidate nomination authority to the state political central committees, as at least the Republican Party had contended. Rather, Miller said in a news conference yesterday, the process will be open to all potential candidates.
With Gov. Brian Sandoval (R) scheduling the NV-2 special election for Sept. 13 after appointing Rep. Dean Heller (R-NV-2) to succeed Sen. John Ensign (R), who officially leaves office today, the Nevada congressional replacement system becomes similar to that of Hawaii – that is, all candidates will appear on the same ballot in one winner-take-all election. This will be the first special congressional election in Nevada’s history, hence the confusion over the law. The race will be conducted under the 2001 Nevada congressional map. The winner will serve what will be the final 15 months of the unexpired term in the current Congress.
The ruling has two clear winners. Sharron Angle, the 2010 GOP Senatorial nominee and former NV-2 candidate (who lost the 2006 GOP primary to Heller by 421 votes), will now likely run in the special election. It was clear that the state Republican Party would not have chosen her as the official party standard bearer, if they had the power to choose a nominee. The Democratic Party benefits under this ruling because coalescing Democratic votes around one strong candidate, like state Treasurer Kate Marshall, who confirms she is running, could allow them to steal the seat with a small plurality since majority Republicans are likely to split their votes among many candidates. This possibility is exacerbated with Angle in the race. Lt. Gov. Brian Krolicki and state Republican chair Mark Amodei are other potential GOP candidates.
The Nevada Republican Party is threatening a lawsuit over Miller’s ruling, but it will be difficult for them to prevail in court. It is hard to see how a judge will overturn an administrative decision that opens an electoral process to all people. The filing period is scheduled for May 23-25. Miller says all legal challenges must be decided by July 15 for his office to have the necessary time to conduct the Sept. 13 election.
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