Derby announces she will not seek U.S. House seat

Jill Derby changed her mind.

Two weeks ago, Derby said she was "the best candidate" to run in a Sept. 13 special election to replace former Rep. Dean Heller in the 2nd Congressional District. On Thursday, she announced she won't compete, instead endorsing state Treasurer Kate Marshall, a fellow Democrat.

Derby's reversal comes after growing behind-the-scenes pressure for her to drop out from Democratic Party leaders in Nevada and Washington, D.C., who are promoting Marshall.

"In spite of all the encouragement I've gotten from friends and supporters in recent weeks, I've decided that this isn't the right time for me to seek the CD2 seat," Derby said in a statement. "Democrats have a strong candidate in Kate Marshall, and I look forward to supporting her in her run."

Earlier this month, Derby, who served on the elected board of regents overseeing higher education, said she would not bow to pressure to get out of the race.

The vacancy occurred when Heller, R-Nev., was appointed to complete the term of U.S. Sen. John Ensign. The Republican resigned amid an ethics scandal caused by his extramarital affair. Derby, 71, came close to defeating Heller in 2006 and did well against him in 2008, too, in campaigns with strong party support.

"I happen to think I'm the best candidate, and a lot of people think that as well," Derby said earlier this month. "I set the high-water mark in this congressional district" for Democrats.

But the national party already had recruited Marshall in hopes of winning for the first time the GOP-leaning district that covers rural and Northern Nevada. Democrats want to put all their effort behind one strong candidate. Derby, a former state party chairwoman, complied with party wishes in the end.

Marshall's campaign manager, Brian Zuzenak, said Derby and the state treasurer are friends, so Marshall was "very pleased that Jill Derby endorsed her" and might help her campaign.

A party insider said Derby is well liked by Democrats, but that having too many well-known candidates competing for the nomination or on the ballot would hurt efforts to pick up the seat.

Another Democrat, Nancy Price, filed Wednesday and plans to remain in the race. She lost to Heller last year and has little financial or party support. Several other unknown Democrats also filed to run.

Democrats still may face an uphill battle to capture the House seat if a district judge's ruling holds and the political parties are required to nominate just one candidate each for the ballot. Under those nominating rules, Marshall -- if picked by her party as expected -- would likely go up against one strong GOP nominee instead of several competing Republican contenders who might split the vote.

Secretary of State Ross Miller, a Democrat, initially set the rules to allow a free-for-all election by accepting all qualified Republican and Democratic candidates, minor party nominees and independents in the Sept. 13 race. But the GOP sued and a Carson City district judge overruled Miller, saying the major political parties have the legal right to nominate just one candidate each.

Miller and the Democratic Party appealed the decision the Nevada Supreme Court, which is hoping to rule before a June 30 deadline for the parties to nominate candidates for the ballot.

The two top Republicans competing for the nomination are state Sen. Greg Brower of Reno and former state Sen. Mark Amodei of Carson City, who resigned as chairman of the state GOP to run. Kirk Lippold, former commander of the USS Cole, also has an active campaign, although he has little support from party leaders who will nominate a Republican to appear on the special election ballot.

Contact reporter Laura Myers at or 702-387-2919.


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