Nowhere in Nevada law does it state that a House position must be filled by a special election.
That begs the question: Why the Governor’s urgency to fill the 2nd CD seat with a special election?
The 2nd CD seat has been held by a Republican since the district’s creation in 1981. The conventional wisdom was that Democrats’ best chance for winning it was to split the GOP vote so that the leading Democrat candidate could received the most votes.
The case was first brought before Carson City District Judge Russell. In a May 19, 2011 hearing, Russell held for the Nevada GOP. But the judge’s role in the story didn’t end there.
Russell failed to disclose that he shared ownership in a mining property (worth $500) with Amodei, nor that Russell had once been a law partner of Amodei. When confronted with the history of his association with Amodei, who led the party that initiated the law suit, Russell explained, “‘First of all, who knew if Mark was running or not running? I hadn’t talked to Mark Amodei in over a year. And more important than anything, he was not part of the action [of the lawsuit]. Secondly, we go by the parties who are in the action. Nobody ever raised the issue and I did not think of it, to be honest with you. And I would not have thought of it from a practical sense because if somebody is going to run or not run, file or not file, that is probably different than if they go down and actually filing… In the past, people have declared and have not done that [file for office]. Probably more important than anything, I made my ruling on the 19th of May, from the bench. He may have said that in the newspaper [that he will file for office] but I don’t think the filing period had opened [by May 19].’” (Among other questions his odd statement begs is this: How could Amodei not have been part of the “action” when he chaired the organization that initiated the law suit?)
The Democrat Party appealed Russell’s Judge to the SCONv. On July 5, 2011, in a 6-1 decision, the SCONv ruled in favor of the Nevada GOP, but for reasons other than those sited by Russell.
By the time the SCONv decision was released, Sharron Angle had already withdrawn as a candidate. Her Press Release, dated May 25, 2011, stated, in part, that:
“Current outcomes concerning the special election have made this election in Nevada an illegitimate process that disenfranchises the electorate. Clearly, no solution that the Supreme Court can make will correct the injury to free and open elections caused by ambiguous laws and subsequent lawsuits.
I do not have any desire to participate in a process described by others as a ‘ballot royale’ or a situation where the party central committees choose their nominees because it makes a mockery of the most important constitutional element in exercising freedom. Voter participation has been preempted in either case by disallowing primary elections, or in allowing a select group of people to make a decision who otherwise would not be allowed to vote in Nevada’s 2nd Congressional District.”
The Nevada GOP Central Committee selected its chair to run in the special election
On June 18, 2011, anticipating the SCONv decision, 221 of the 323 voting members of the Nevada GOP Central Committee attending a Reno meeting voted to elect their recently resigned chairman, Mark Amodei, as the solo GOP nominee in the special election.
The Daily Sparks Tribune quoted Amodei after his victory: “‘We needed this affirmation from the party to continue and we got it…The whole reason we are here today, folks, is because we want to keep this seat Republican.’ Amodei said he felt the fact he is a former chairman of the state party put added pressure on him. ‘To be honest with you, if you don’t come out of here with this organization’s support, then you are done — if you are me. None of the other people [other candidates] had that responsibility.’”
The members of the “central committee” who voted came from across all three Nevada congressional districts: 39 from CD1; 183 from CD2; 101 from CD3. Consequently, among the total number of central committee members attending the meeting, 43% did not live in the 2nd CD.
After electing their former chairman to be the GOP candidate in special election, the central committee elected Amy Tarkanian to succeed him as chair of the Nevada Republican Party. Tarkanian is the wife of Danny Tarkanian who finished third, behind Angle and Lowden, in the 2010 Republican primary U.S. Senate race.
The September 13, 2011 special election in the 2nd Congressional District of Nevada
Mark Amodei defeated the Democrat Party candidate, Nevada State Treasurer Kate Marshall, 58% to 36%. He was re-election in 2012.
1. There was no legal requirement for Governor Sandoval to call a special election. That suggests a political motive as the reason for applying an election law in a situation that did not match the law’s intent.
2. The people of the 2nd Congressional District of Nevada did not select their representative in the special election of September 13, 2011. The privilege of that selection was exercised by the apparatchiks of the Nevada State GOP Central Committee.
3. A significant percentage of the voting “central committee” did not live in the 2nd CD. That represented the disenfranchisement of the voting rights of all those who did live within the 2nd CD.
4. What happened is not how the Framers of the Constitution of the United States of America intended for representatives to the Peoples’ House to be chosen.
In short, the deck was stacked.