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Special election to replace Nevada Rep. Dean Heller open to all comers

May 02, 2011|By Mark Z. Barabak | Los Angeles Times
(Julie Jacobson/AP )

Throwing Nevada's special congressional election into a wide-open competition, the state's chief election officer announced Monday that the ballot would be available to any candidate interested in pursuing the seat.

“This interpretation allows open ballot access, freedom for all to run and ultimately it lets the people decide,” Secretary of State Ross Miller said at a news conference in Carson City. “That structure is as American as apple pie.”

The alternative, dismissed by Miller, would have allowed party insiders to select their nominees for the Sept. 13 election to fill a vacancy created by Rep. Dean Heller's appointment to replace Sen. John Ensign, who resigned amid an ethics probe into corruption allegations arising from an extramarital affair with a former staffer.

The rules Miller issued were favored by Democrats eyeing the seat, but Miller, a Democrat, said partisan considerations had no bearing on his decision. The law “is very clear,” he said, though Miller acknowledged the likelihood of a legal fight challenging his view.

Nevada has not held a special House race in its 146-year history and the law governing such elections was open to interpretation.

Democrats, who have never held the seat in its 30-year history, hoped for a crowded field, which could have the potential of splintering the GOP vote. Republicans wanted to narrow the competition and place the nominating process in the hands of party insiders, who signaled their intention to pass over Sharron Angle, who is already running for the seat.

Angle alienated many in Nevada’s Republican establishment by waging a haphazard and unsuccessful bid last year to unseat Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.

The 2nd Congressional District takes in most of the state, excluding the greater Las Vegas area.

mark.barabak@latimes.com

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