Thursday, May 05, 2011

The strange case of the special election in Nevada's 2nd Congressional District

This has received some coverage, but in the event that people haven't focused on it, there has been an interesting development in Nevada's 2nd Congressional District.

You may recall that this is the seat vacated by Dean Heller, who was appointed by Governor Brian Sandoval to fill out the remainder of John Ensign's Senate term. Ensign resigned in disgrace after having admitted an affair with the wife of one of his senior aids. It may come as no surprise, by the way, that Heller, Sandoval, and Ensign are all Republicans.

What makes this one interesting is that, in Nevada, state law stipulates that there can be no primary to narrow down the choices that would run under a party banner, as usually happens in other jurisdictions.

But other than the prohibition on a primary, it was not immediately clear how the law would be applied. In other words, there was ambiguity as to whether all comers would be allowed to run for the vacated seat, or whether state party committees would be allowed to pick one candidate to run as "the" Democrat and "the" Republican.

Given the fact that this is a district where the Republicans are strong, it's not surprising that Republicans were hoping that the rules would be interpreted according to the second option, that they be allowed to pick one person to run as their standard bearer so that the vote is not split. Since Democrats would be a longer shot, they likely wanted the first option that anyone be allowed to run. Clearly they are hoping that many candidates would split the vote in strange ways and perhaps allow a Democrat to sneak up the middle.

Well, last Monday, the Secretary of State for Nevada, Ross Miller, who just happens to be a Democrat, interpreted the rules to say that anyone can run. The Republicans are up in arms saying that this was a partisan decision sure to favour Democrats. So far, at least three Democrats have expressed an interest in running as have five Republicans, but there are likely to be more.

To thicken the plot, failed Nevada Senate candidate and Tea Party "star" from 2010, Sharron Angle, is one of the Republicans determined to run. She has even suggested that the mainstream Republican establishment would have preferred to choose a candidate so they could avoid having her run on the general theory that the mainstream GOP is always trying to thwart the goals of the Tea Party movement. It could also be that Angle is crazy and that actually sane Republicans don't want Angle to do in this congressional race what she did in the Senate race - lose a sure thing. That could be it too.

That's where things stand. The election is on September 13th.

As an aside, I can't help but quote from a fundraising letter on Angle's website complaining that the Nevada Republican Party is trying to keep her out. It read in part:

The Democrats want this seat. The left-wing of the Republican Party wants it more. Instead of an open process, already they are behind closed doors, choosing one of their own to be the preferred candidate in the race.

Did any phrase jump out at you? Perhaps, "left-wing of the Republican Party." That really says something about the Tea Party. They actually think the Republican Party has a left wing. Imagine.

So the decision has been made by the State of Nevada and Angle can run along with what may be many others. It may actually turn out, as it sometimes does in wide-open races, that the one with the greatest name recognition does the best. It may not be that easy, however, as Nevada GOP chairman Mark Amodei and Lt. Gov. Brian Krolicki are considering entering the race.

As for the Democrats, it is true they have never held this district, but Obama lost in it in 2008 by only 89 votes, so, with crazy splits and a crazy Republican in the mix, who knows.

What we do know is that we will now be blessed with yet another campaign full of fun pronouncements from Ms. Angle. I'm sure the Nevada Republican Party is thrilled.

(Cross-posted to Lippmann's Ghost.)

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