Krolicki is GOP favorite if special election needed for Heller’s seat

Lt. Gov. Brian Krolicki is the GOP favorite to run for the U.S. House if there’s a special election to replace Rep. Dean Heller, according to a new insiders’ poll, yet it appears he would face fierce Republican competition no matter how the balloting is run.

If GOP Gov. Brian Sandoval appoints Heller to replace resigning U.S. Sen. John Ensign as widely expected by Friday, Krolicki would have a leg up on the competition to fill the House vacancy — if he decides to jump into the fray, which isn’t certain.

A survey of 100 members of Nevada’s GOP central committee showed Krolicki with 44 percent support compared with 27 percent for Nevada Republican Party Chairman Mark Amodei. Tea party favorite Sharron Angle finished third at 11 percent, followed by state Sen. Greg Brower of Reno at 9 percent and former USS Cole commander Kirk Lippold at
3 percent. Another 6 percent were unsure.

The Las Vegas Review-Journal obtained the poll Tuesday from a member of the Republican Central Committee who confirmed he took part in the survey of about one-third of the committee members.

GOOD FOR KROLICKI, AMODEI

The poll was good news for Krolicki and Amodei, a former Carson City senator, if the special election is run as Republicans wish and the party is allowed to select a nominee to put on the ballot.

It also showed Angle has little GOP backing after losing the 2010 election to U.S. Sen. Harry Reid, a Republican heartbreaker that damaged her standing in the party.

“I’ve always said it’ll be a race between the boys, Amodei and Krolicki, if he gets in,” said Heidi Smith, a GOP national committeewoman in Nevada who backs Amodei. “I’m friends with Sharron, but she just doesn’t have the people she used to have.”

If any special election were held in a free-for-all fashion — as Democrats prefer — then all potential GOP candidates could compete, possibly splitting the Republican vote and giving either Angle or a Democrat a better chance of winning the 2nd Congressional District. The district covers Northern and rural Nevada, conservative turf that has been in GOP hands for 30 years.

On Tuesday, Angle released a statement putting down speculation she might run as an independent or third-party candidate if the GOP doesn’t back her and parties are allowed to choose candidates. Earlier in the week, a person familiar with Angle’s thinking said she was considering such a run, although a three-way race could allow a Democrat to win.

“I am committed to the House race for the 2nd Congressional District as a Republican candidate,” Angle said.

She dismissed any special election as messy and undemocratic, although a spokesman for her said she would decide later whether to participate if Heller were appointed senator and Sandoval called one to be held within 180 days.

“I look forward to running in a legitimate campaign cycle where all registered voters are able to participate in both a primary and general election,” Angle said, noting she has hired a company known for winning “complex campaigns.” “A special election free-for-all, or a situation where party insiders nominate a candidate, does disservice to our representative democracy.”

In any special election Brower, too, could face an uphill battle to gain GOP support and raise his profile among Nevada voters. The former assemblyman, who once lost to Angle, on Tuesday formally filed paperwork to compete in the House race as expected. The former U.S. attorney for Nevada was appointed earlier this year to finish retired Sen. Bill Raggio’s term.

“As a proud Republican, I am excited and humbled to enter the race for CD2,” Brower said in a statement. “I do not take this step lightly and want to be very clear that I am in this important race to win. I believe Nevada is best represented by a strong conservative voice in Washington, D.C., and I am committed to see that we have it.”

Angle and Lippold announced their candidacies last month. Amodei has said he plans to run and is telling allies he’s waiting for Sandoval to announce his decision. Krolicki is considering the race but is said to be concerned about the strain on his family, including three young children, by a campaign and being separated from home if he wins the seat in Washington, D.C.

RULES TO BE DETERMINED

If there is a special election, Secretary of State Ross Miller would have to decide the rules under an untested 2003 Nevada law for replacing House members. He was telling people this week he expects a court challenge no matter his decision. And both political parties have submitted legal letters arguing their opposite interpretations of the law.

The GOP wants each party to select one candidate for the ballot, believing that would vastly improve the odds of Republicans keeping the seat. Democrats want a wide-open election to split the GOP vote, providing a capture-the-flag opportunity.

Meanwhile, election officials were preparing for the likelihood of a special election.

Larry Lomax, the registrar of voters in Clark County, said a special election for the 2nd Congressional District would be easy and cheap since only 33,000 registered voters in Southern Nevada live in the district. He said the cost might be in the five figures.

In Washoe County, Registrar of Voters Dan Burk said he’s hoping to save money by consolidating early voting and polling places by about one-third and trimming paid Election Day volunteer staff to about 400 people. A special election for the 225,000 registered voters in the district would cost $250,000 to $350,000, Burk estimated, or about half the cost of a regular election.

As for the rules, both Lomax and Burk were waiting to hear from the secretary of state’s office.

“I’ve been doing this for 32 years, but this does have some unusual curves to it,” Burk said, noting Nevada election officials have never had to run a special election for the House. “We’re not exactly sure how this will come out.”

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