LAS VEGAS - Nevada Treasurer Kate Marshall entered the special election to replace Republican Rep. Dean Heller on Wednesday, undercutting Democrats' best hopes of winning with a unified front against a crowded GOP roster of candidates.
Marshall is the third Democrat to join the still-forming field of hopefuls in an open contest expected to yield an unusually long ballot. There will be no primary before the September general election, and major party candidates simply have to submit a completed form by May 25 to run.
Marshall likely will face Democrats Jill Derby and Nancy Price, as well as Republicans Sharron Angle, state Sen. Greg Brower and former USS Cole Commander Kirk Lippold. State GOP chairman Mark Amodei and Republican Lt. Gov. Brian Krolicki are also weighing a run in the GOP-leaning district.
"Nevadans deserve a voice in Congress that will fight for middle class families, and that's what I intend to do," Marshall said.
Political consultants had speculated that one prominent Democratic candidate could claim the GOP-leaning district if a slate of Republican hopefuls split the vote.
Marshall's entry might instead prove fortuitous for Angle, who is the best known of the candidates and is a powerhouse fundraiser. She is a former assemblywoman who lost to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid last year.
There are 173,641 Republicans in the sprawling, rural district that crosses all of Northern Nevada, compared to 142,214 Democrats, according to state voter registration tallies from April. The swelling ballot could be decided by the more than 85,000 independent and small party voters in the district.
National Republicans pounced quickly Wednesday, painting Marshall as fiscally irresponsible because she once invested $50 million with the now bankrupt Lehman Brothers banking firm on the advice of the state's securities lending adviser.
"With such a history of mismanaging hard-earned taxpayer dollars, Nevada families can only expect more of the same negligence if Kate Marshall joins her fellow Democrats in Washington," said Tyler Houlton, a spokesman for the National Republican Congressional Committee.
Marshall said she advocated for reduced spending and strove to protect the state purse. She was elected treasurer in 2006 and re-elected in 2010.
"The entire country lost money in the Wall Street crash and as treasurer I am currently pursuing all legal avenues against the company that defrauded us," she said.
This is Nevada's first special election to replace a sitting House member. Heller joins the Senate on Monday. He was appointed to replace Republican Sen. John Ensign, who resigned Tuesday after admitting to an extramarital affair that spawned an ethics investigation.
The Nevada Republican Party has said it might challenge the rules of the election in court. They oppose the open contest format and insist party leaders should be able to winnow the field of candidates by voting on a representative who will ultimately fight in the September contest.