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Nevada Judge Tosses Out ‘Battle Royale’ Special Election Format

A Nevada judge ruled Thursday that political parties will be allowed to choose their nominees in the 2nd district special election, overturning an earlier decision that would have allowed an all-party free-for-all.

Carson City District Judge James Todd Russell ruled in favor of the state GOP, which went to court to argue that only candidates nominated by the parties’ central committees should be allowed to run in the Sept. 13 special election to fill now-Sen. Dean Heller’s (R) seat. Nevada Secretary of State Ross Miller (D) had ruled earlier that the contest would be an all-party, winner-take-all election — a format he called a “battle royale.”

Russell’s ruling, which is likely to be appealed, gives the parties until June 30 to nominate their candidates for the special election. It also boosts GOP prospects of holding the district, which was almost evenly split between President Barack Obama and Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) in the 2008 presidential election but leans Republican on the local level.

Thursday’s decision appears to give Nevada Republican Party Chairman Mark Amodei the inside track to becoming the GOP nominee. It also deals a major blow to former Senate candidate Sharron Angle, who has already announced she is seeking the 2nd district seat. Angle, who lost to Sen. Harry Reid (D) in 2010, does not have strong support within the state party apparatus, and it has been made clear that GOP leaders would not pick her as their nominee.

Amodei, as the state party chairman, does have close relationships with the central committee members who will pick the nominee. In addition to Amodei and Angle, retired Navy Cmdr. Kirk Lippold and state Sen. Greg Brower are also running as Republicans in the special election.

Among Democrats, state Treasurer Kate Marshall is viewed as the strongest contender and becomes the favorite to be tapped by party leaders. Former House candidates Jill Derby and Nancy Price are the other Democrats running in the special.

Heller, who was first elected to the House in 2006, was appointed to succeed Sen. John Ensign (R), who resigned earlier this month.

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