Rep. Dean Heller (right), shown shaking hands with Rep. Joe Heck, will likely be elevated to the Senate, setting off a tussle among Nevada politicians for his House seat.
Updated: 9:36 p.m.
With the likely prospect that Rep. Dean Heller will be appointed to succeed resigning Sen. John Ensign (R), strategists from both parties began scrambling Thursday to prepare for a special election in Nevada.
If the Republican is appointed to fill the Senate vacancy, Nevada law states that Gov. Brian Sandoval (R) has a week to call a special election within 180 days of the House vacancy.
On Thursday evening, officials in the secretary of state’s office pointed reporters to a Nevada law that stated there would be no primary in the case of a House special election. However, the officials cautioned they were still researching the statutes and consulting with the state attorney general on the exact election procedure.
Secretary of state officials also said state law might allow the state party committees to pick nominees for the special election.
Because Heller was already running for Senate, several Republicans had already tossed their hat into the race to succeed him in 2012. Among them is Sharron Angle, who lost a high-profile race to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D) last cycle, as well as former Navy Cmdr. Kirk Lippold. Local news outlets reported this week that Nevada GOP Chairman Mark Amodei would also get into the race, but he told Nevada political journalist Jon Ralston on Thursday that he was not announcing a bid for the seat yet.
If the parties are ultimately allowed to choose their nominees, a high-ranking Nevada GOP source said there is “no way” Angle would be tapped to be the party’s standard-bearer. But Amodei would likely have the upper hand in that scenario.
Lt. Gov. Brian Krolicki is also among the Republicans who were considering running for the open seat in the 2nd district, and sources said he would be the most formidable candidate if he wants to enter the special election fray.
National operatives mentioned two potential Democratic candidates for the special election: state Treasurer Kate Marshall and Jill Derby, who was the nominee against Heller in 2006 and 2008. She earned 45 percent of the vote in 2006 and 41 percent in 2008.
Republicans hold a small edge in Heller’s district and would likely have the upper hand in a one-on-one special election. However, whoever wins the special election will have to decide whether to run in what could be a vastly different district in 2012. Nevada is gaining a seat because of reapportionment, and district lines are expected to be redrawn later this year.