As expected, Dean Heller (R-NV) will have a bit of a head start when the 2012 race for the Senate seat being vacated by John Ensign goes before voters. Until then, Heller will carry out the duties of US Senator. Meanwhile, plans are being made for an election to fill Heller’s House seat for the duration.
Heller was appointed to the seat by Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval.
It remains to be seen what other Republicans who may have thoughts of running for Ensign’s seat will do. Heller will enter 2012 as an unelected incumbent, which may or may not help him in a general election but may be an advantage in a primary. One person to watch is Sharron Angle, who attracted a great deal of national attention during her challenge of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) in 2010. That race was considered by most observers to be a toss-up right to the very end, when Reid managed to pull away and retain his seat.
Heller has been planning to run for the Senate upon Ensign’s prior announcement that he would not seek re-election.
The likely Democratic candidate is Shelley Berkley (D-NV).
RBR-TVBR observation: The early reads we’re seeing on this race for 2012 is toss-up. It is thought that Heller’s new Senate colleague, Reid, will do his best to force Heller into votes he may not wish to explain to voters back in Nevada. His other disadvantage is that he is not from Las Vegas, where a lot of the votes in the state happen to be. The Nevada Senate race figures to be a battleground – plus Nevada’s 2nd District can look forward to a special election political advertising windfall a little further down the road.