Nevada's GOP governor eyed for Supreme Court

Brian Sandoval


WASHINGTON — Brian Sandoval, the centrist Republican governor of Nevada, is being vetted by the White House for a possible nomination to the Supreme Court, according to two people familiar with the process.

Sandoval is increasingly viewed by some key Democrats as perhaps the only nominee President Barack Obama could select who would be able to break a Republican blockade in the Senate.

The White House declined to comment Wednesday for this story.

Wednesday, Obama stated again that he would "do his job" and nominate someone to fill the court vacancy.

Obama also predicted that the Republican position on considering his nominee "may evolve" if the public believes his nominee is "very well qualified."

"I don't expect Mitch McConnell to say that is the case today. I don't expect any member of the Republican caucus to stick their head out at the moment and say that. But let's see how the public responds to the nominee that we put forward," the president said.

The nomination of a GOP governor — albeit one with a bipartisan record — could break that resolve.

Sandoval met Monday with Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, a fellow Nevadan with whom he enjoys cordial relations.

A person familiar with the conversation said that while Sandoval told Reid he had not made a final decision on whether he would accept a Supreme Court nomination, he would allow the vetting process to move forward.

Another person in Nevada familiar with the process confirmed that the process is underway.

It is unclear how many potential nominees are undergoing White House vetting for the high court vacancy left by Justice Antonin Scalia's death.

Some Democrats believe that nominating Sandoval could fracture the front of Republican opposition and force McConnell to take up the nomination in this contentious election year. It would also put on the spot a few Senate Republicans who are up for re-election in blue states in November.

The Senate unanimously confirmed Sandoval as a district court judge in 2005 after he was nominated by President George W. Bush. The Nevada Republican stepped down from the bench in 2009 to run for governor and is now counted among the most popular governors in the nation.

He also represents a swing state with a heavy concentration of Latinos who will be important in the presidential race.

But at least one Republican — Sen. Orrin Hatch, who is from neighboring Utah — said nominating Sandoval wouldn't change his mind not to act on Obama's candidate.

Nominating Sandoval would carry risks for Obama. Sandoval is aligned with Democrats on some key issues, including abortion rights and the environment. As governor, he has moved to implement the Affordable Care Act and has said he considers same-sex marriage to be a settled issue.

But Sandoval is not seen as labor-friendly — potentially alienating a swath of the Democratic base. His legal credentials are also lacking compared to some of the other names under consideration who are mainly sitting federal judges.

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