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September 1, 2014

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Special House election chaos continues Tuesday with oral arguments to state Supreme Court

So everything is settled in that House special election run-up now that the parties have chosen their nominees – Mark Amodei for the Republicans and Kate Marshall for the Democrats.

Except, of course, for those pesky technicalities.

Filing is still open until Friday, even though technically the standing lower court ruling says no one else should be allowed to file as a Democrat or Republican. That’s what Carson Judge Todd Russell ruled – that Secretary of State Ross Miller’s “ballot royale” was not legal. Yet, the lower court insisted filing should be extended until the end of June, when it still may not have made up its mind.

So, technically, because of the party central committees choosing their nominees per Russell’s decision, filing should not really exist. But it exists because the Supreme Court says it does.

You following along so far?

The justices will hear oral arguments Tuesday morning, but we have no idea when they will rule. And if they don’t reach a decision before July 6, then the election will have to be pushed back from its current Sept. 13 date because of ballot printing requirements.

But the law clearly says the governor sets the special election date, so can the court really tell Brian Sandoval what to do? Or just set the date itself?

Are the justices really that powerful? Well, they did change the course of the legislative session and resolved a budget dispute, so their wizardry may be boundless.

One more obnoxious question: If the justices do reverse Russell and decide a free-for-all is in order, shouldn’t they extend filing again to accommodate those who may have thought the lower court decision precluded filing for the office? I’m just asking.

Meanwhile, refusing to acknowledge the lower court ruling or the wishes of his own party, ex-naval officer Kirk Lippold continues to campaign He puts out a news release a day, bragging about straw polls or his signing of the “Cut, Cap and Balance” pledge.

But Lippold hasn’t raised much money since his initial $51,000 – only an aggregate $6,500 in four subsequent, 48-hour reports. He loaned his campaign $3,000, but he will need to infuse a lot more (if he can) or find some other donors – he only has one in Nevada, ex-Rep. Barbara Vucanovich, who apparently has yet to persuade any other Silver State folks to pony up for her new best friend.

UPDATE: Lippold spokesman Jack Finn says since those reports Lippold has raised more in-state money, taking in more than two dozen Nevada donations. We'll see soon.

If the high court does not reverse, Lippold is either out – or he’ll have to take the third-party route. But if he can’t raise much money, I’m not sure how much of a factor he can be in either format if he were to run as an independent.

If Lippold continues to attend all manner of party functions – I have seen him on schedules as late as July 23 – he could cause Amodei to hemorrhage. Enough to elect Marshall? That’s complicated.

The district is 43-35 GOP, but Marshall touts her strength in Washoe County (she won there twice). Washoe essentially is even in registration (Republicans have a 2,000-voter edge out of 214,000 registered). The urban North makes up about 54 percent of the district in its current incarnation and with some evenly split Clark precincts making up 8 percent, that’s 62 percent where Marshall surely could be competitive. Harry Reid won Washoe; so did Barack Obama in ’08.

But that 38 percent of the electorate in rural Nevada will vote disproportionately to its numbers, and Marshall should get crushed out there. So she will need someone to siphon votes from Amodei if she is to be competitive.

Lippold is a possibility. A sudden entrance of another Republican name if the court reverses is possible, albeit unlikely. Some have mentioned the nearly 20,000 Independent Americans in the district, too – they are very conservative and won’t vote for Marshall, but will they vote for Amodei or one of their own, the demonstrably weak Tim Fasano?

Marshall is doing well in fundraising – she raised $76,000 originally (and spent $20,000) and has taken in $16,000 more in the 48-hour reports. She will have six figures, if she doesn’t already.

Amodei surged after his initial anemic $23,000, taking in almost $32,000 in his subsequent filings. He should have a respectable number to report.

Amodei surely is the favorite here, no matter what the court does. And if it’s only an unfunded Lippoid to consider besides the major party nominees – with Republicans Sharron Angle, Greg Brower and Brian Krolicki not in the race -- even if the court reverses, it may not matter as much to the outcome as everyone first thought.

A battle royale becomes a battle not at all? Maybe. With a lot at stake here – all the national folks will have their bellwether spectacles on – and no Democrat ever having held the seat in 30 years, the Republicans have everything to lose.

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