Nevada Republican Sharron Angle would consider waging an independent bid for Congress if she were passed over by party insiders in a potential special election for Rep. Dean Heller's (R-Nev.) House seat, according to the Las Vegas Review Journal.
Gov. Brian Sandoval (R) is expected to make an appointment by the end of the week to fill the seat of Sen. John Ensign (R-Nev.), whose resignation is effective May 3. Sandoval is widely expected to pick Heller, who is already in the 2012 race for Ensign's seat.
That pick would set the stage for a special election to fill Heller's vacant House seat, but state elections officials are still trying to determine whether the candidates would be selected by party officials or would run in an open election.
If party insiders were to select the nominee, Angle would be at an immediate disadvantage, and, if shunned, could wage an independent bid.
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Angle, a tea party favorite who lost to U.S. Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., last year, has a core of supporters who might give her enough votes to win a wide open, crowded special election. The GOP central committee, however, isn't expected to pick Angle if the party gets to nominate someone to run for Heller's 2nd congressional district, which covers all of Northern and rural Nevada.
The former Reno assemblywoman is said to prefer an open election, but if Angle's locked out by the GOP she will consider running as an independent or as a third-party candidate, said one source familiar with her thinking. In the 1980s, Angle was a registered Democrat so she could vote for a friend, she said. She also has been a member of the Independent American Party.
The new poll shows a three-way race could split the GOP vote between Angle and an establishment Republican, opening the door for a Democrat to win the seat for the first time. The survey showed the outcome would be within the margin of error, meaning a Democratic victory is not assured and an establishment GOP candidate or Angle could win.
Angle was the first to jump into the House race after Heller announced last month that he was running for Ensign's seat. Former USS Cole commander Kirk Lippold of Carson City also filed to run for Heller's seat.
A spokesman for Nevada Secretary of State Ross Miller said Friday that should Sandoval appoint Heller, the secretary of state's office will have clarity on the special-election process by the time Heller's House seat is declared vacant.
"There's a lot of case law to be studied," said spokesman Bob Walsh. "And we're currently studying it. But we're not addressing any of the hypotheticals."