Amodei and Marshall to face off in Nevada special House election, Supreme Court rules

Alexis Levinson Political Reporter
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The special election in Nevada’s second congressional district will be a competition between the two candidates chosen by the Democratic and Republican state party central committees, the Nevada Supreme Court ruled Tuesday evening.

The Court upheld the district court’s ruling that the central committee’s of each major party was responsible for choosing the party’s nominee. The race will be a competition between former State Senator Mark Amodei on the Republican side, and State Treasurer Kate Marshall for the Democrats.

Secretary of State Ross Miller had initially interpreted Nevada’s ambiguous special election laws to mean that the election would be a free-for-all, in which candidate who wished to run could petition to get on the ballot. The Nevada Republican Party sued, claiming that the ruling would benefit Democrats.

Indeed, had Miller’s interpretation stood, Republicans would have faced a field with two Republican candidates: Amodei and former USS Cole Commander Kirk Lippold, who declined to drop out of the race even after the central committee nominated Amodei.

That scenario opened up the possibility that Lippold and Amodei would split the Republican vote, allowing Marshall to win, despite the significant advantage that Republicans hold in the district in voter registration.

“We are extremely pleased with today’s ruling by the Nevada Supreme Court. The Nevada Republican Party chose to fight to preserve and protect the rights of the constituents of Nevada’s 2nd Congressional District and today’s ruling is a victory for us all,” said Nevada GOP Chair Amy Tarkanian. (Despite Iowa shake-up, Cain denies his campaign is in disarray)

“The decision handed down today simply affirms our unwavering position and finalizes an answer to our questions with the Secretary of State’s unfortunate initial ballot rules. Today’s ruling moves us one step closer to preserving this important seat, carrying our momentum into 2012 and turning Nevada red again,” she said.

Lippold’s campaign will issue a formal statement on Wednesday, but advisor Phillip Stutts emailed: “We respect the decision and Commander Lippold believes Kate Marshall should be defeated.”

The justices ruled that had the 2003 Legislature responsible for the unclear law governing special election meant for the election to be a free-for-all, it would have made that explicit. Moreover, the court noted that in the interim between 2003 and the congressional vacancy that prompted this special election, the Secretary of State did not “adopt regulations” necessary to hold a special election, making “deference” to his decision, in this case “inappropriate.”

Miller, for his part, issued a statement expressing his gratitude for the timeliness of the court’s decision; there had been some concern that the need for proper deliberations would take a long enough time as to require the date of the election to be pushed back.

“I appreciate the Supreme Court’s expedited deliberation in this case. The justices have issued a well-reasoned opinion that allows my office to move forward with the important business of conducting a special election to fill the vacancy in the U.S. House of Representatives,” Miller said. (UN environmental initiative is the Tea Party’s new nightmare)

With the rules of the election now set, the campaigns should kick into gear. Amodei has already aired his first television ad of the race, and the National Republican Congressional Committee has begun attacking Marshall.

Other outside groups are likely to jump in too, said Robert Uithoven, a Nevada Republican political consultant. The Las Vegas Sun reported that the race is likely to garner national attention, and will be a “testing ground” for both parties to try out their message in preparation for the regular elections in 2012.