Las Vegas Sun

August 17, 2018

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Damon Political Report

Democrats working to keep Heller from being appointed to Senate

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Dean Heller

Sun Coverage

While Gov. Brian Sandoval deliberates over his expected decision to appoint U.S. Rep. Dean Heller, R-Nev., to the Senate following John Ensign’s resignation on Tuesday, Democrats are taking advantage of the delay to push an argument against the appointment.

U.S. Rep. Shelley Berkley, D-Las Vegas, the presumptive frontrunner for Democrats, clearly doesn’t want to go up against an incumbent Republican in 2012. That has the party working on multiple fronts to prevent Heller from getting the appointment.

First, Democrats are working to create as much legal confusion as they can over the special election process for Heller’s replacement in the 2nd Congressional District, pointing to redistricting lawsuits that seek to enjoin the secretary of state from holding any congressional elections until the maps are redrawn.

Second, Democrats are circulating a backgrounder on governors in three other states—Delaware, West Virginia and Massachusetts—who recently appointed placeholder candidates, arguing the voters should decide who the permanent senator should be.

Now, they are stressing the cost to cash-strapped counties that a special election would generate. Some estimates for Washoe County, the most populous in the 2nd Congressional District, reach as high as $500,000.

“I don’t know how we do it, to be honest with you,” said Washoe County Registrar Dan Burk. “That’s why we are looking at all these drastic cut downs on the number of polling places and staff.”

The 2010 primary cost the county $650,000, he said. But instead of opening 95 polling places, Burk is looking at opening only 30 to 35 spots for a special election that could be as late as October or November. The ballot will also be cheaper to produce because it is only one race, as will the sample ballot.

But it will still be a financial burden.

“We just don’t have the money,” he said.

Democrats in the Legislature also passed a mostly symbolic resolution urging Sandoval to accept applications for the position and then make those applications public before announcing an appointee.

Sandoval, through his adviser Dale Erquiaga, has said the resolution is irrelevant to his process on making a selection. Erquiaga also expressed little sympathy about the cost of a special election, but stressed it is only a potential cost at this point.

Erquiaga said Sandoval will select someone who will be prepared to start work on May 3 and who closely reflects Ensign’s conservative political ideology.

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