When Ensign announced his intention to resign Thursday, political analysts immediately suspected that Nevada's 2nd District congressman, Republican Dean Heller, was the most likely candidate to replace him. Heller had already announced his plans to run for the seat in 2012.
In a statement released Friday, Sandoval said he takes "very seriously the importance of this appointment, so to speculate on potential candidates for appointment before then would be premature."
Appointing Heller would give him the advantage of incumbency ahead of the election next fall. To date, no other Republican has come forward to run. But Sandoval could opt for an interim senator who would not run in 2012.
According to the Senate Historical Office, of the 40 appointed senators that chose to seek election to remain in office since 1961, 19 won election and 21 were defeated. But the last six appointees who ran all won, most recently Colorado Democrat Michael Bennet and New York Democrat Kirsten Gillibrand in 2010.