CARSON CITY, Nev. (AP) - Nevada Republican U.S. Rep. Dean Heller will replace John Ensign in the U.S. Senate, Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval announced Wednesday.
The appointment was anticipated and sets up a political scramble
on how Heller's House seat will be filled. State law says a special
election must be held within 180 days of a vacancy.
Ensign, who has been dogged by an ethics investigation, said last week he was resigning effective May 3.
Heller last month said he would run for Ensign's seat in 2012, and Sandoval quickly endorsed him.
In a statement, Sandoval said Heller "is an experienced representative who is ready for the responsibilities of this office, and who will work hard, not just for Nevada, but for the entire nation."
"A fiscal conservative who believes in limited government, Dean
will fight to keep taxes low and balance the federal budget," Sandoval said. "He understands that the federal government spends too much money and places too many regulatory burdens on small business."
Heller in a statement said he was "deeply humbled," by the appointment.
"There is a lot of hard work ahead to get our state and nation moving in the right direction," he said. "There is no question that our nation needs to change the way we do business if we are going to get our economy back on track and get Nevadans working again."
The appointment gives Heller, just elected to his third term in Nevada's 2nd Congressional District, the appearance of incumbency
in the 2012 election. Rep. Shelley Berkley, a seven-term Democrat
from Las Vegas, also announced her candidacy for the Senate seat
next year. Both have raised about $1.5 million for the race, according to Federal Election Commission reports.
Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, noted the 2012 contest in a statement
congratulating Heller's early appointment.
In the months ahead, Cornyn said, "Nevada will see firsthand why Dean Heller is the right leader, at the right time, to continue serving them in the U.S. Senate."
Sandoval said he was working with the secretary of state's office to determine how a special election would be conducted. Nevada has never had to fill a House vacancy, and state laws are vague.
Once a House vacancy occurs, the governor has seven days to set the date for a special election, which must be held within six months.
But there are questions over whether candidates would be chosen by political party central committees, or if it would be open to anyone interested in running.
Ironically, Heller apparently contributed to the uncertainty of filling his vacancy.
Legislators in 2003 passed a bill providing for a special election in House vacancies and directed the secretary of state to adopt regulations on how the process would be conducted. Heller was secretary of state at the time, and there's no indication regulations were ever adopted, a spokeswoman in the office said.
State Sen. Greg Brower, R-Reno, indicated this week he is interested in succeeding Heller. Others include tea party favorite Sharron Angle and former Navy Cmdr. Kirk Lippold, who already announced their intent to run next fall.
State GOP chairman Mark Amodei and Lt. Gov. Brian Krolicki also are considering entering the race.
Democrat Nancy Price, a former regent, told a newspaper she would also enter the race. Price ran against Heller last fall, though she did not actively campaign.
Nevada Treasurer Kate Marshall also reportedly is considering running for the seat.
Governor Brian Sandoval issued the following statement announcing his intention to appoint Congressman Dean Heller (R-NV) to the United States Senate:
“The people of Nevada deserve a new senator who can begin work immediately. Too many important issues face our state and our nation to name a caretaker to this important position; Nevada needs an experienced voice in Washington, DC."
“Dean Heller currently represents 16 Nevada counties in their entirety and parts of Nevada’s most populous county, Clark County. Dean has served as a statewide Constitutional officer for 12 years, as a member of the Nevada Legislature, and is serving his third term in the U.S. House of Representatives. He has quickly risen through the ranks within the United States House of Representatives. Dean is an experienced representative who is ready for the responsibilities of this office, and who will work hard, not just for Nevada, but for the entire nation."
“A fiscal conservative who believes in limited government, Dean will fight to keep taxes low and balance the federal budget. He understands that the federal government spends too much money and places too many regulatory burdens on small business. Just as Senator John Ensign fought for states’ rights and sound economic policies, Dean will speak out for the concerns of every-day Nevadans. I am confident he will help get Nevada working again."
“Dean Heller is a compassionate man of deep personal integrity, with a down-to-earth approach to public service. I have no doubt Dean will serve Nevada in the Senate for many years, and I look forward to working with him on behalf of the state we both love so much."
“Recognizing that this appointment will create a vacancy in the office of U.S. Representative from Nevada’s Second Congressional District, I pledge to work closely with Secretary of State Ross Miller on the timing of the upcoming transition and resulting special election. I have asked Secretary Miller to provide me with information on the rules for conducting this election at his earliest convenience.”
U.S. Congressman Dean Heller (R-NV) released this statement on is appointment:
“I am deeply humbled and honored to be appointed to the Senate by Governor Sandoval. There is a lot of hard work ahead to get our state and nation moving in the right direction. Nevadans across our state have been struggling with job loss, high gas prices, and foreclosures. There is no question that our nation needs to change the way we do business if we are going to get our economy back on track and get Nevadans working again."
“As I have stated before, it is time for government to be accountable to the American people and make decisions that lead the way for greater prosperity and fulfill our promises to future generations. Serving in the United States Senate will provide Nevada a stronger voice and greater opportunities to influence the policies that matter most to our great state,” said Heller.
Nevada Senator Harry Reid made the following statement on Governor Brian Sandoval’s announcement that he intends to appoint Congressman Dean Heller to the United States Senate:
"I welcome Dean to the Senate. As his responsibilities shift to representing all Nevadans, rather than a single district of our state, I am confident he will work with me and members of both parties to address the serious challenges facing Nevada and the nation."