RENO — State Treasurer Kate Marshall told Nevada Democrats on Saturday she wants to be their “gal in Congress,” and party leaders agreed to give her a chance as their nominee in the special election to fill a largely rural U.S. House seat that Republicans have held since its creation 30 years ago.
“One down, one to go,” Marshall told cheering members of the state central committee who gave her all but five of the 122 votes for the nomination to face former state senator and past GOP chairman Mark Amomdei in the Sept. 13 election.
Marshall, 51, had the endorsement of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid in a race that is sure to draw national attention after Republican Sen. John Ensign resigned in the face of an ethics probe and third-term GOP Rep. Dean Heller was appointed to fill his seat.
Heller won in a 2010 landslide against ex-university regent Nancy Price, who briefly sought the Democratic nomination again for the special election but withdrew before Saturday’s vote.
Heller won his first two races against Democrat Jill Derby, who had tried to emphasize her rural roots in the sprawling 2nd District, which includes the entire state except the Las Vegas area but will be redrawn before the next regular election in 2012.
Marshall said she thinks she can appeal to moderate Republicans and Democrats in rural parts of the state and in urban centers, including Reno-Sparks and Carson City.
“I’m Kate Marshall. I’m your state treasurer and I want to be your gal in Congress. Helloooooooo!” she said in a spirited, four-minute speech to the 122 delegates meeting at the Grand Sierra Resort.
Marshall, a lawyer who graduated from the University of California at Berkeley and served in the Peace Corps in Kenya, worked for the Justice Department in San Francisco and Washington, D.C., before returning to Nevada and winning her first race for state treasurer in 2006.
She warned on Saturday that Republicans would try to turn the race into a referendum on the policies of President Barack Obama and Democratic leaders in Congress rather than an election that should turn on what is best for Nevadans.
“It is you and only you who will elect this representative,” Marshall said. “They will tell you it is about other people — that it’s about (House Speaker) Nancy Pelosi. But last I checked, she didn’t live here.
“They’ll tell you it is about the president. It is not. It is about the voters right here in Nevada,” she said. “Congress should focus less on Washington, D.C., and more about the middle class. Congress needs to focus on jobs. If I’m your gal in Congress, I will focus on jobs.”
Republican National Committee spokesman Ryan Mahoney said in a statement that Marshall was Reid’s “hand-picked nominee” and that the party members’ decision to back her shows how out of touch they are with public sentiment about the direction in which the country is headed.
“Nevadans simply cannot afford to send another Harry Reid-style politician to Washington,” Mahoney said. “Harry Reid has gone out of his way to anoint Marshall as his party’s nominee, and Nevadans cannot trust her to stand up to his or President Obama’s big spending, job killing agenda.”