Republican Sharron Angle is considering running as an independent or third-party candidate for Congress if there's a special election and the GOP does not put her on the ballot.
That was the word circulating Monday as maneuvering intensified to win U.S. Rep. Dean Heller's seat if it becomes vacant.
If Angle does run as an independent, a three-way race with her, a Republican and a Democrat could open the way for a Democrat to win Heller's GOP seat, according to a new poll.
"It would not surprise me if she did that," said Robert Uithoven, a GOP consultant whose candidate lost the 2010 Senate Republican primary to Angle in 2010. "I don't think Sharron Angle has really ever cared about the consequences of a general election. I think her agenda for the last 20 years has been to get on the ballot to promote herself."
Such a three-way race scenario might not come to pass, however. It all depends on what happens next in the wake of scandal-plagued U.S. Sen. John Ensign's sudden resignation, which takes effect May 3.
Gov. Brian Sandoval plans to make his appointment to Ensign's seat by Friday. He's expected to pick Heller, which would mean calling a special election within six months to fill the vacant House seat.
Nevada law isn't clear on whether such a special election would be open to all comers -- including Angle, other Republicans, Democrats, independents and third-party candidates -- or whether the political parties' central committees can put forward one candidate each. Secretary of State Ross Miller will have to decide the rules if Heller is appointed.
Angle, a tea party favorite who lost to U.S. Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., last year, has a core of supporters who might give her enough votes to win a wide open, crowded special election. The GOP central committee, however, isn't expected to pick Angle if the party gets to nominate someone to run for Heller's 2nd congressional district, which covers all of Northern and rural Nevada.
The former Reno assemblywoman is said to prefer an open election, but if Angle's locked out by the GOP she will consider running as an independent or as a third-party candidate, said one source familiar with her thinking. In the 1980s, Angle was a registered Democrat so she could vote for a friend, she said. She also has been a member of the Independent American Party.
The new poll shows a three-way race could split the GOP vote between Angle and an establishment Republican, opening the door for a Democrat to win the seat for the first time . The survey showed the outcome would be within the margin of error, meaning a Democratic victory is not assured and an establishment GOP candidate or Angle could win.
Angle was the first to jump into the House race after Heller announced last month that he was running for Ensign's seat. Former USS Cole commander Kirk Lippold of Carson City also filed to run for Heller's seat.
Reno Sen. Greg Brower said Monday he would run in any special election -- or in the 2012 contest if Heller remains in office until then. Nevada Republican Party chairman Mark Amodei also has said he will run for the congressional seat and probably will file by May. GOP Lt. Gov. Brian Krolicki also is considering running for Heller's seat and plans to announce his intentions soon.
The poll showed that Krolicki would do best among establishment GOP candidates, including Brower and Amodei, but only by a couple of points. Brower has been working the phones furiously during the past week, reaching out to potential financial backers and Republican establishment figures for support as he gears up for a likely special election.
Democrats whose names were tested in the poll included state Treasurer Kate Marshall and Jill Derby, who ran against Heller twice and came close to defeating him in 2006, the first time Heller won the House seat.
Marshall has been heavily recruited by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee in Washington. She is expected to run as the party-backed candidate if there's a special election, said a source familiar with her thinking.
Angle's campaign did not return telephone calls for comment.
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