What John Ensign’s resignation means for Sharron Angle

at 01:52 PM ET, 04/22/2011

The surprise resignation of Sen. John Ensign (R-Nev.) has major implications for another Nevada Republican: former assemblywoman Sharron Angle.
Nevada’s Sharron Angle hopes to be in the House. (Cathleen Allison - AP)

Angle, who lost last fall to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, was planning to run for Rep. Dean Heller’s seat when the Republican congressman ran for Senate next year. Now that Ensign is stepping down, Gov. Brian Sandoval (R) is likely to appoint Heller to the Senate. That means a special election for his House seat. Depending on how the election law is interpreted, things look better or worse for Angle.

If Sandoval appoints Heller, he must call for a special election in 180 days. The law could be used to call for a free-for-all election in which candidates from all parties compete. That favors Angle, who has wide name recognition and who carried the district in her Senate campaign. However, it could also be used to call for a party nomination process followed by an election. If party committees pick the candidates, Angle has far less of a chance.

“I would urge all players involved in setting up the election to be fair, transparent, and not to manipulate the process for their favored candidates. There is a long recent history across the country of voter backlash resulting from bias by establishment leaders,” said John Yob, a consultant to Angle’s Senate campaign. “Regardless of the system, Sharron Angle will have a clear path to success.”

The law dates back to 2003 and has never been tested. Secretary of State Ross Miller is the one in charge — he’s a Democrat, but he prides himself on dealing with legal issues in a nonpartisan manner.

Miller says that it’s an “unprecedented situation,” but until the governor announces his appointee for the Senate seat, it’s also a hypothetical one. His office will make a decision once Sandoval makes his appointment.

Insiders are saying that if a party committee picks the candidate, there’s no way Angle will be the nominee. So who will it be? The state party chairman, Mark Amodei, has been thinking about a House run, and his current job puts him in close contact with the delegates that would decide on a nominee. Two other potential contenders, Lt. Gov. Brian Krolicki and state Sen. Greg Brower, are also well-known and well-liked. (Brower will reportedly file his papers next week). Retired Navy Cmdr. Kirk Lippold is a relative newcomer to politics and might struggle to find support.

It’s unlikely that a Democrat will win this Republican-leaning seat, unless Angle decided to run as an independent — a move that would permanently destroy her already fractious relationship with the GOP.

 
Read what others are saying