Former Sen. Heller to run for Nevada governor

Greg Nash

Former Sen. Dean Heller (Nev.) will announce Monday he will run for governor of Nevada next year, entering a crowded Republican field ahead of what would be a challenging showdown against first-term Gov. Steve Sisolak (D).

Heller is likely to become a fast front-runner in a field that so far includes North Las Vegas Mayor John Lee (R) and Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo (R).

He plans to announce his campaign in Carson City, a source close to Heller confirmed to The Hill. The Nevada Independent editor Jon Ralston was the first to report Heller would seek to return to public office.

Heller will rely on veteran Republican strategist Fred Davis to manage his paid advertising campaigns. Gene Ulm, a partner at the prominent Republican firm Public Opinion Strategies, will handle his polling, the source told The Hill.

Heller, 61, has won four statewide elections in Nevada — three as Secretary of State, beginning in 1994, and a full term in the Senate, after he was appointed to fill the seat left vacant by Sen. John Ensign (R), who resigned in a cloud of scandal.

When he won a full term in 2012, Heller was one of only three Republicans across the country — including the secretary of state in Washington and Vermont’s lieutenant governor — to win a statewide election in a state former President Obama carried.

But he could not survive the rising tide of anger directed at former President Trump, who twice lost Nevada’s electoral votes. Heller lost reelection by a 5-point margin to Sen. Jacky Rosen (D-Nev.) in the 2018 midterms, which cost Republicans control of the House of Representatives and nearly the Senate.

Though Nevada has been trending toward Democrats at a national level, Sisolak was the first Democrat to win the governor’s office in almost a quarter century. His predecessor, Brian Sandoval (R), now the president of the University of Reno, is a close Heller ally.

Heller’s entry into the race sets up a bizarre possibility that he will once again share the top of the ticket with Adam Laxalt, Nevada’s former Republican attorney general, only on opposite ends of the ballot. In 2018, Laxalt lost to Sisolak by 4 percentage points, at the same time Heller lost his seat to Rosen. This year, Laxalt is challenging Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.) as Heller seeks the governorship.

Tags Barack Obama Catherine Cortez Masto Catherine Cortez Masto Dean Heller Dean Heller Donald Trump Jacky Rosen Nevada gubernatorial election Steve Sisolak

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