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“I think it’s a good thing,” said Ryan Erwin, a Nevada-based GOP consultant. “Anytime you can have an incumbent, and somebody there to build a record on the Senate side, continuing the conservative voting record that he’s had in the House, it’s a good thing. He’s still going to have to work hard, he’s still going to have a tough race in 2012.”
Democrats wasted no time in attacking the presumptive Senate appointee, and the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee released a statement attacking Heller minutes before Ensign’s news release.
“There will be a very clear choice for Nevadans between an uncompromising extremist like Dean Heller, who wants to end Medicare and cut loans for small businesses to give more tax breaks for the very rich, and Shelley Berkley, a true fighter for Nevada’s economy and middle class,” DSCC Executive Director Guy Cecil said. “Nevada will remain a top target for Senate Democrats.”
Privately, however, Democrats acknowledged that if Heller is indeed appointed to the seat, Berkley would be at a huge disadvantage in the Senate race next year.
Senate Democrats have been publicly supportive of Berkley’s nascent Senate candidacy: DSCC Chairwoman Patty Murray (Wash.) announced last week that the committee was backing the Las Vegas-area Congresswoman — a signal that Democrats were attempting to clear the primary for her.
If Heller were chosen for the Senate seat, Nevada law states the governor has a week to call a special election within 180 days of the House vacancy. Although district lines are due to be redrawn this cycle in redistricting, the current 2nd district is highly competitive territory. The 2008 presidential race was basically a draw in the district, with Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) eking out a victory by fewer than 100 votes.
Steven T. Dennis contributed to this report.