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Nevada election to replace Heller set for September

April 29, 2011|By Mark Z. Barabak
(Julie Jacobson/AP )

Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval announced Friday he would call a Sept. 13 special election to fill the congressional seat being vacated by GOP Rep. Dean Heller, the governor’s choice to replace Sen. John Ensign.

More importantly, the state’s chief elections officer, Secretary of State Ross Miller, called a press conference for Monday to announce the rules of engagement for the contest, which could determine how competitive the House race will be.

Republicans hold a registration edge in the 2nd congressional district, which takes in the entire state, save for the greater Las Vegas area. But a large GOP field could splinter the Republican vote, giving Democrats a shot at winning the seat—especially if they coalesce behind a single candidate.

Nevada has never held a special congressional election in its 146-year history and the laws governing the process are murky, giving Miller—a Democrat--the leeway to set the ground rules. While Democrats would like a free-for-all, Republicans are hoping that Miller will let the parties pick their nominees, which would allow state GOP leaders to pass over Assemblywoman Sharron Angle who, fairly or not, is viewed by many as the weakest candidate they could field.

Undeterred, Angle issued a fundraising pitch Friday, slamming “the left wing of the Republican Party.”

“Instead of an open process, already they are being [sic] closed doors, choosing one of their own to be the preferred candidate in the race,” Angle said in her solicitation. “This is exactly why I’m running and why I need your help.”

Angle had announced her candidacy even before Heller was tapped to succeed Ensign, who is stepping down next week amid an ethics probe into alleged corruption charges arising from an extramarital affair. Heller had previously announced his plans to seek Ensign’s seat in 2012. (Sandoval, Ensign and Heller are all Republicans.)

Angle, who lost to Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid in last year’s marquee Senate race, raised an impressive $710,000 in the first-quarter of the year, from more than 20,000 contributors nationwide. Most of the money was used to pay down debt from Angle’s Senate run, leaving about $175,000 cash on hand.

(Read: In Nevada, an early testing ground for 2012)

mark.barabak@latimes.com

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