Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nevada, says he wishes the judge who ruled in the second congressional special election case had disclosed business interests he shared with Republican candidate Mark Amodei.
“I was as surprised as anybody else when I read that they had had some business dealings together,” said Heller on an appearance on the TV news program Nevada NewsMakers on Monday. “I think the claim was they were deciding on process, they weren’t deciding on candidates at that time, and I think for that reason Russell decided he didn’t need to recuse himself from the process.”
Carson City District Court Judge James Russell ruled on May 19 on the procedure for the upcoming special election to fill the congressional seat vacated when Gov. Brian Sandoval appointed Heller to the Senate seat left open when John Ensign resigned.
The ruling, which was in response to a Republican party challenge to Secretary of State Ross Miller’s decision that the ballot would be open to numerous party contenders, limited the ballot to single nominees selected by each party’s central committees.
After the ruling,a blog post in the Reno-Gazette Journal revealed that Russell and Amodei, the former state senator chosen by the Republican committee as its candidate for the congressional seat, share a $500 mining claim in Storey County.
Russell later said he did not consider it a conflict.
“In this day and age I think everything, every little thing, needs to come forward. I even think he could have disclosed the relationship and still made the ruling, ” said Heller. “I wish he would have done that, but, again, I know Judge Russell and I’ve known him to be a man of integrity.”
Heller also said he expects his own 2012 election against opponent Rep. Shelley Berkley to be a tough race that will cost between $10 million and $12 million.
“I know that Senator (Harry) Reid wants to keep his majority, wants to keep his leadership post, so he’s going to do everything he can to help my opponent,” said Heller. “I’ve got my hands full.”
Heller said he wasn’t impressed by Berkley’s so-called Jobs Tour, which visited Reno this week, citing Berkley’s vote for the so-called Cap and Trade bill, which he said was estimated to kill 5,000 jobs in her district.
“Your voting record is going speak a lot louder than your little speaking tour,” said Heller.
Heller also said he supported a national e-verify system, similar to one used in Arizona, requiring employers to verify all employees’ immigration status.
He also defended his vote against raising the nation’s debt ceiling.
“The markets were loud and clear on how bad this debt ceiling vote was,” said Heller, referring to the subsequent drop in the stock market. “The bad outweighed the good in this particular piece of legislation.”