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Nevada treasurer Marshall announces run for Heller’s seat

For those keeping score, the count stands at four Republicans and three Democrats, so far.

On Wednesday, State Treasurer Kate Marshall, a Democrat, announced she is running to replace GOP Rep. Dean Heller in what is shaping up to be a crowded, first-of-its-kind special election Sept. 13 that is open to all comers.

Recruited by the national party, Marshall is viewed as the strongest Democratic contender who might have a chance to win the GOP-held district, especially if the race becomes packed with too many Republicans who will split the GOP vote.

“Nevadans know me. I have a proven track record,” Marshall said, adding that she has won statewide office twice and has traveled each county in the 2nd Congressional District, which covers Northern and rural Nevada and a bit of Clark County.

GOP leaders are so concerned about losing the seat that they are planning to challenge the wide-open rules set Monday by Secretary of State Ross Miller, a Democrat.

The GOP also has scheduled a June 18 meeting in Reno for the Republican central committee to nominate one candidate for the ballot to comply with the party’s reading of the law.

Tea party movement favorite Sharron Angle, whose unmanageable moves have upset GOP leaders, isn’t likely to win the party nod. Yet she remains a threat to the GOP field because the candidate with the most votes wins, even if the total is a small slice of the overall turnout. The former Reno assemblywoman is a proven fundraiser — $700,000 in the first three months of this year — and retains a core of support despite her 2010 loss to U.S. Sen. Harry Reid.

Former USS Cole Commander Kirk Lippold of Carson City, another GOP outsider without party backing, said Wednesday he would not participate in any central committee contest for the special election.

“A decision of this magnitude should be open to all voters and not left in the hands of a small group of party insiders,” Lippold said.

State Sen. Greg Brower of Reno, seen as a strong GOP contender, has said he will compete in any process.

A fourth Republican announced Wednesday he was in the race: Ed Hamilton of Henderson, who has run for local and federal office many times over the years under both major-party banners. He has never received much support.

Two other potential top GOP contenders are expected to reveal their intentions soon. Lt. Gov. Brian Krolicki and Nevada Republican Chairman Mark Amodei. They both have support within the party .

gop central committee

Heidi Smith, a GOP national committeewoman from Reno, said the central committee wants to nominate a candidate because there is no party primary and it wants to signal to voters the person GOP leaders believe would best fill the shoes of Heller. The congressman is resigning to accept a Senate appointment on Monday to finish disgraced U.S. Sen. John Ensign’s term.

“Because it’s wide-open, you could have 500 people signing up to run,” Smith said. “My dog Spot could run. We want to say, as a party, this is the person we feel would be best for this job. You could still vote for yourself or anybody else, but we as the Republican central committee, which is run by conservative Republicans, feel this is the person who can represent us best.”

Miller said Wednesday the GOP central committee “can do whatever they want in terms of nominating a preferred candidate,” but a party-chosen Republican would get no special designation to stand out on the ballot.

special election rules

Under the open special election rules, pretty much anyone can run under major- and minor-party banners or as an independent if the candidate is at least 25 years old and has been a U.S. citizen for the past seven years. Last-minute party-switching is allowed. A candidate doesn’t have to live in the district or Nevada until elected, under the U.S. Constitution.

Minor parties that already have legal ballot access in Nevada, such as the Independent American Party, Libertarian Party and Americans Elect Party, can nominate a choice, who then must file a declaration of candidacy with the secretary of state.

Minor parties without automatic ballot access must gather signatures of 100 registered voters in the district to put forward a candidate.

Nonpartisan contenders must gather the same number of signatures to qualify for the ballot.

Although much of the angst has been on the GOP side, there will be some Democratic competition, too.

Nancy Price, a former higher education leader and the Democratic congressional nominee who lost to Heller last year, confirmed Wednesday she is in the race. Price said she realizes hers will be a lonely fight.

“I know the party wants to get behind Kate,” said Price, who ran for Congress a decade ago as a Republican in Southern Nevada before switching parties, partly to protest the U.S. wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. “But I was elected last year as the Democratic nominee, and I’m still running. And so the Democrats ought to get behind me instead of anointing someone.”

Price won about a third of the ballots in 2010, more than 87,000 votes, compared with Heller’s two-thirds showing.

Jill Derby, a former Nevada Democratic Party chairman, served on the Nevada System of Higher Education’s Board of Regents with Price. Derby said last week she plans to run but left the door ajar to change her mind, depending on the rules and who else enters the race.

Marshall, 51, said as Nevada’s chief investment officer she has steered the state through several years of economic crisis while gaining a positive return on the state’s $2.5 billion investment portfolio every quarter.

“Nevadans, they know I’m fiscally responsible,” Marshall said, adding she ordered an audit of her office when she first came in “to make sure we’re not spending money where we don’t have to spend it.”

And she renegotiated state contracts to get cheaper deals, said Marshall, who easily won re-election in 2010.

“My goal is to work with Republicans and Democrats and work through the financial crisis,” she said.

Marshall was immediately endorsed by former Nevada Attorney General Frankie Sue Del Papa. She brought Marshall to the state in 1997 to create Nevada’s Antitrust Unit, which works to prevent companies from illegally monopolizing a market. Previously, Marshall worked antitrust issues in Washington, D.C., for the Department of Justice.

“She is one of the most innovative, dynamic and hardworking individuals I have ever met,” Del Papa said.

republicans criticize Marshall

Republicans criticized Marshall for state investment losses of $50 million when Lehman Bros. bank failed.

“As treasurer, Kate Marshall recklessly gambled away $50 million in Nevada taxpayer dollars on Wall Street. With such a history of mismanaging hard-earned taxpayer dollars, Nevada families can only expect more of the same negligence if Kate Marshall joins her fellow Democrats in Washington,” said Tyler Q. Houlton, spokesman for the National Republican Campaign Committee.

Republicans, who took over the U.S. House after the 2010 election, see the Nevada seat as one that must be saved because it has been in GOP hands since its creation in 1982.

The GOP holds a 31,427-registered-voter advantage over Democrats in the 2nd Congressional District, according to new figures for the end of April that were released Wednesday by the secretary of state’s office.

The totals showed 173,641 Republicans, 142,214 Democrats. About 85,000 people registered as nonpartisan or with third parties.

Contact reporter Laura Myers at lmyers@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2919.

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