A Heller-Berkley matchup, intriguing for many reasons, was initially also unique because it would have meant two Members of the House running against each other. Now, Heller will run as the incumbent and his votes in the Senate will be watched closely. Heller has taken conservative votes
in the House recently, positioning himself to the right on immigration and supporting the House Republicans' budget plan.
"I congratulate Congressman Dean Heller on his appointment to the United States Senate and I applaud Governor Sandoval on this important decision. Dean is a personal friend and it is with great honor and respect that I will watch him join the ranks of many distinguished Nevadans," said Nevada GOP Chair Mark Amodei
"Next year's election is critical, and in the months ahead, voters throughout Nevada will see firsthand why Dean Heller is the right leader, at the right time, to continue serving them in the U.S. Senate," said National Republican Senatorial Committee Chairman John Cornyn
"No amount of backroom deals will change the fact that Dean Heller voted earlier this year to destroy thousands of Nevada jobs and just weeks ago voted to eliminate Medicare to pay for more tax breaks for billionaires," said Nevada Democratic Party spokesperson Zach Hudson
. "As the unelected senator, Dean Heller will now be forced to explain to all Nevadans why he is working in Washington to end Medicare, and cut loans for small business that create clean energy jobs in Nevada," Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee spokesperson Matt Canter
Sandoval received pressure from some Republicans who urged him to assign a place holder instead of Heller. Heller's appointment means the state will conduct its first ever House special election, but the rules about how that will be done have been murky during the past few days, sparking speculation about scenarios in which some candidates would have an advantage over others.
In his statement, Sandoval pledged to work closely with Secretary of State Ross Miller
on the timing of the coming special election.
From the time Heller is officially appointed, Sandoval will have seven days to call a special election that must take place within 180 days, on a Tuesday. It's unclear whether state party committees will choose nominees for the election or whether one free-for-all election will take place. The Secretary of State's office is still reviewing the rules.
2010 Senate nominee Sharron Angle
, retired U.S. Navy Kirk Lippold
, and state Sen. Greg Brower
have already announced their candidacy to seek to replace Heller, in what would have been among the most spirited GOP primaries even without he added uncertainty of a special election that's so far unclear procedurally. But two other Nevada heavyhitters are also weighing bids - Lt. Gov. Brian Krolicki
A Krolicki adviser said the lt. gov. will have an announcement on the race, one way or the other, early next week.
If the secretary of state's office rules that nominees can be picked by party, Krolicki and Amodei, as establishment Republicans would be seen as the strongest contenders.
If she was boxed out after a GOP committee vote, there had been speculation in recent days that Angle could run as an independent, possibly splitting the ballot and giving Democrats an opening in the GOP-leaning seat. In a statement Tuesday, Angle said she was "committed" to the 2nd District race as a Republican.
"I look forward to running in a legitimate campaign cycle where all registered voters are able to participate in both a primary and general election," said Angle. "A Special Election free-for-all, or a situation where party insiders nominate a candidate, does disservice to our representative democracy."
Possible Democratic candidates include former Nevada Democratic Chairman Jill Derby
, who lost twice to Heller for the congressional district, and state Treasurer Kate Marshall
National Republicans expressed confidence they would hold onto the seat in a special election, even given the uncertainty of a yet-to-be determined election.
"Special elections are always challenging, and this one is certainly no different," said National Republican Congressional Committee spokesman Tyler Houlton.
"When given the choice between a big-spending Democrat and a fiscal conservative, we're confident that Nevada voters will choose the latter."
The 2nd District leans Republican, although Sen. John McCain
(R-Ariz.) only narrowly won there in 2008, beating then-Sen. Obama
by just 89 votes.