Nevada Republican Governor Brian Sandoval has announced his decision to select LDS Republican Congressman Dean Heller, who represents the Second Congressional District dominated by Las Vegas, to replace outgoing Republican Senator John Ensign, who announced his resignation effective May 3rd as a result of continuing fallout over an affair with the wife of a top aide, which triggered an ethics investigation. Gov. Sandoval cited Heller's experience in Congress as a major asset, saying that Nevada must be represented in the Senate by an individual who can begin work immediately rather than expend time getting up to speed.
Gov. Sandoval's full statement was posted on Politico. In part, this was his explanation for the decision:
“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.
Since Democratic Senator Harry Reid is also LDS, this means both of Nevada's U.S. Senators will be Mormons, a distinction shared only by Utah.
But despite Heller's integrity, experience, and the fact that his fiscal conservatism is in line with what America needs right now, there is a downside. Because Gov. Sandoval is not allowed to appoint Heller's replacement in the U.S. House, a special election within 180 days is required to replace him. But the special election to replace Heller could cost Nevada hundreds of thousands of dollars, which could have been avoided had the governor named someone else as an interim senator to be in place just until the next election in 2012. Also complicating the issue is sparring over re-districting, necessitated by the fact that Nevada picked up a fourth U.S. House seat as a result of the 2010 census; already, two lawsuits have been filed over proposed new district boundaries. So it's unclear if the current Congressional district lines would be used.
Possible successors to Heller include Nevada State Sen. Greg Brower (R-Reno), former Assemblywoman Sharron Angle, and retired Navy officer Kirk Lippold, former commander of the USS Cole. Lieutenant Gov. Brian Krolicki and former state Sen. Mark Amodei are also considering entering the race. The Las Vegas Review-Journal cites an insiders poll which indicates that Krolicki could be the favorite. But if it looks like Sharron Angle can't gain traction as a Republican, she could run as an independent. None of these individuals are known to be LDS members.
Good luck, Nevada.