Sam Morris / Las Vegas Sun
Tuesday, March 15, 2011 | 9:24 a.m.
U.S. Rep. Dean Heller, R-Nev., who told supporters in an e-mail that he’s officially in the U.S. Senate race, said this morning he’s running as if he’ll face a Republican primary, even if one doesn’t eventually materialize.
In a brief interview with the Las Vegas Sun, Heller said he moved up his announcement after U.S. Sen. John Ensign, R-Nev., surprisingly bowed out of the race last week.
Heller had been expected to challenge the beleaguered Ensign in a primary if the senator hadn’t backed down.
“I don’t know what to expect, but I’m going to plan like this is a primary campaign,” Heller said. “I anticipate this will be as tough a race as I’ve ever been in.”
Heller’s announcement so soon after Ensign’s departure from the field decreases the likelihood he’ll go up against a major Republican candidate in a primary.
But former Assemblywoman Sharron Angle, R-Reno, remains the wildcard. Angle lost last year’s race against Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., but made a national name for herself in the process. She is widely expected to be on the ballot again next year, either in the Senate race or for the congressional seat being vacated by Heller.
In 2006, Heller won a difficult primary against Angle, beating her by fewer than 500 votes.
Asked if he was ready to take her on again, he chuckled.
“Are you ever prepared?” he said. “We’re as prepared as we can be. But I just don’t know what she is going to do. I don’t know her intent so your guess is as good as mine.”
Heller’s announcement means Lt. Gov. Brian Krolicki likely will not run for U.S. Senate.
“He and I have chatted,” Heller said. “I don’t want to make any announcement for him, but he won’t be in the Senate race.”
Heller added “you’d have to ask him” if he’ll be running for the 2nd Congressional District.
Heller said he has no plans to endorse a candidate in the Republican primary that is shaping up for his largely GOP district.
As first reported by the Nevada News Bureau, Nevada Republican Chairman Mark Amodei is telling insiders he will seek the seat. Krolicki may be another contender, as well as Kirk Lippold, former commander of the U.S.S. Cole.