Dean Heller is staying strong during the fight of his political life. The incumbent Republican senator is battling one-term Nevada Congresswoman Jacky Rosen to keep the seat he has held since 2011. Polls show the race a dead heat, and everything from health care to veterans to the confirmation of now-Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanagh are being thrown around.
Heller has grown close to President Donald Trump over the last year. A year ago, Heller traveled with Trump to Las Vegas in the wake of the 1 October shooting. That appeared to be one of the ice-breaking moments between the two Republicans. (Heller had voiced his disapproval of Trump during the 2016 presidential campaign before ultimately casting his ballot for Trump).
The two seem to genuinely like each other today, which isn’t that surprising as both men have an easy-going, personable side to them. Heller has said he approves of much of what Trump is doing as president – especially on the economy and on tax cuts. Heller recently called Trump “a great leader,” according to the New York Times.
But, the Dean Heller of 2018 has learned to stay out of the “reality show” part of Donald Trump’s presidency. The Nevada Republican senator declines to take the bait when reporters want to push him to comment on every provocative Trump Tweet.
Heller might have found just the right balance in his relationship with Trump, especially when it comes to Nevada voters. Trump is a great asset in a state where Republican support for Trump is strong (although Democratic presidential rival Hillary Rodham Clinton squeaked out a narrow victory over Trump in Nevada in 2016).
Trump also lent a hand to Heller by convincing Heller’s would-be primary rival, Danny Tarkanian, to drop his challenge to Heller to instead seek the open House seat being vacated by Rosen.
Heller recently received more in-state support, as well. At the beginning of October, Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval threw his support behind Heller. That endorsement was significant as the term-limited Sandoval — a moderate Republican — declined to endorse the Republican hoping to replace him as governor: Adam Laxalt.
The Nevada senate race is one being watched by the whole country. Some observers say control of the United States Senate may be decided by the Heller-Rosen race. Trump came to Las Vegas in September to try to rally support for Heller (along with other local Republican candidates).
Outside money is pushing for Rosen, and Heller has used that fact to his advantage in television ads talking about how California is trying to buy the Nevada senate seat by bankrolling Rosen.
Still, money is money, no matter where it comes from. And Jacky Rosen had a great last quarter. She raised $7.1 million for her campaign from April through June, which was the latest reporting period. Heller’s totals had yet to be released by early October.
Recently, Sen. Heller answered questions about his re-election race, his opponent, and his plans for the future, with a reporter from Vegas Legal Magazine.
Vegas Legal Magazine Questions for Sen. Dean Heller
VLM: Question 1: Recently, decades-old sexual misconduct allegations against Supreme Court Nominee Judge Brett Kavanaugh sparked a debate on how to verify such charges so many years later. As a senator deciding how to vote, how do you balance all these factors in a nomination hearing?
DH: I commend Dr. (Christine Blasey) Ford for bravely sharing her painful story with my colleagues. She deserved the opportunity to be heard. I also appreciate Judge (Brett) Kavanaugh’s compelling testimony in which he delivered a raw defense of his character and a vehement denial of the allegations. After listening to the testimony delivered during the hearing, I believe that both Dr. Ford and Judge Kavanaugh delivered genuine, but starkly different accounts while under oath. While I am extremely disappointed by the way that Democrats approached the allegations and by the resulting media circus that ensued, I am supportive of the Administration’s decision to request a supplemental FBI background investigation that must be completed within one week. At this point, no corroborating evidence to support the allegations have surfaced and I hope that other senators will come to the conclusion that I have reached and support Judge Kavanaugh’s nomination.
EDITORS NOTE: Kavanaugh was ultimately confirmed to become a justice on the United States Supreme Court, with Heller voting for his confirmation, following the wrap-up of the FBI investigation.
VLM: Question 2: Do you agree with some who say a government shutdown, prior to the mid-term elections, would hurt Republican candidates?
DH: This Republican Congress has passed more appropriations bills on time this year than it has in twenty years, we avoided a government shutdown at the end of the fiscal year, 75 percent of the federal government has been funded on time this year, and other remaining agencies are funded until December 7, 2018. While this is significant progress, we must continue working through a regular budget process which is why I have repeatedly introduced the No Budget No Pay Act, which prohibits members of Congress from getting paid if they fail to do their job.
VLM: Question 3: Do you believe that Republicans need to get funding for the border wall secured before the mid-term elections?
DH: Border security is national security, and that’s why I’ve long said that Congress must prioritize efforts to secure our border and strengthen interior enforcement, as well as provide our border control agents with the federal resources necessary to do their jobs. That’s why I helped introduce the Building America’s Trust Act, legislation that would help secure the country’s borders, increase public safety, and enforce federal immigration laws. I also introduced legislation to expedite the removal of criminal gang members – like individuals associated with MS13 – and prevent them from entering the country. At the same time, I want a long-term solution for individuals who came here through no fault of their own, and that’s why I’m a cosponsor of the BRIDGE Act and why I’ve voted twice for a permanent solution. We are a nation of immigrants and our state – and our country – thrives because of immigrants’ many contributions to our communities. So, I know how important it is that we find a solution for those who came here through no fault of their own, and fix our system so that those who want to come here to pursue the American dream can continue to do so.
VLM: Question 4: Congresswoman Jacky Rosen, your opponent, claims that the so-called “Trump tax cuts” don’t do enough to help Nevada families and working-class Nevadans. How would you respond to those comments?
DH: Congresswoman Jacky Rosen is completely out-of-touch with hardworking Nevadans and middle-class families, and she must finally realize it because last week, she voted to make permanent these tax cuts that she alleges “don’t do enough for the middle class.”
Since the law was enacted, more than 30,000 jobs in the state of Nevada have been created, and recently, Nevada’s unemployment rate hit an 11-year low – the lowest level since before the 2008 economic downturn. As a direct result of tax reform, tens of thousands of Nevadans are benefiting from bonuses, raises, and expanded benefits on top of bigger paychecks and strengthened pensions. When I spoke with small business owners in Nevada shortly after our Tax Cuts and Jobs Act was signed into law, roughly nine in 10 said they plan to take action that includes increasing workers’ wages and investing in their companies as a direct result of tax reform.
This law is a win for workers and middle class families across our state. In fact, Nevada was ranked second among states when it comes to middle-income families who benefit most from tax reform. As a member of the U.S. Senate Finance Committee, I was proud to help write the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. This legislation lowers rates for all income brackets. And, thanks to my ability to secure an amendment in the bill, gives families much-needed relief by doubling the child tax credit from $1,000 per child to $2,000 per child.
Jacky Rosen has said she wants to turn back the clock to the days when Nevadans were struggling to make ends meet, and good-paying jobs were hard to come by. She wants to reverse this booming economy by reinstating burdensome regulations and repealing the historic tax cuts that have helped give hardworking families a much-needed lift. To put that into perspective – while our national economy grew at a rate of 4.2 percent last quarter, during President (Barack) Obama’s eight years in office, GDP growth averaged just 1.9 percent. By opposing tax reform, Jacky Rosen is against this growth and prefers the status quo. Further, she has said that a $1,000 bonus is “crumbs.” I disagree. As the son of a Carson City school cook and auto mechanic I know that amount of money will go a long way toward ensuring there is food on the table, or that parents can purchase back-to-school supplies for their kids.
VLM: Question 5: With all the political polarization, do you see real bipartisan cooperation in Congress as a thing of the past?
DH: As the fifth-most bipartisan member of the U.S. Senate, my number one focus has always been the people of Nevada, and my record will show that I’ve worked with anyone who has good ideas that will move Nevada forward. Whether it’s working with Senator (Bob) Casey (D-Pa.) to reduce the VA disability claims backlog at a time when veterans waited on average more than 400 days for their claim to be approved, or leading the Republican charge to extend unemployment benefits in 2014 — when Nevada’s unemployment rate was nearly double what it is now, I’ve been proud to partner with my friends across the aisle to navigate into law our legislation that helps Nevada’s communities.
Nevadans’ interests and priorities are my priorities and have always – and will always – transcend party lines. I remain committed to working with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to pass into law my bipartisan proposals – ranging from ensuring pregnant women are treated fairly in the workplace to addressing the doctor shortages affecting our veterans – that will improve the lives of Nevadans.
VLM: Question 6: Both you and your opponent, Congresswoman Jacky Rosen, have competed for the support of Nevada veterans – and said you champion veterans. Why, specifically, should veterans vote for you?
DH: I will never stop fighting to ensure that Nevada’s 300,000 veterans have the benefits, care and support that they’ve earned and deserve. Take for example the Reno VA claims processing office, which was ranked the worst in the country only several years ago. I immediately took action and stepped in to correct this egregious problem, and as a result nationwide, 500,000 of our military heroes are no longer waiting for their health benefits.
During my time in the U.S. Senate, more than 40 pieces of legislation that I’ve either authored or helped introduce to address the needs of our veterans and service members have become law. Meanwhile, my opponent has turned her back on the men and women who have served our country by skipping an important vote on legislation to help Vietnam veterans poisoned by Agent Orange, and fundraising with Hanoi Jane Fonda, who famously quipped that torture against American POWS was ‘understandable.’
VLM: Question 7: Your opponent, Democratic Congresswoman Jacky Rosen, has said (in ads) that she stands up to Democratic leadership when it is in the best interest of Nevadans. But Rosen claims you won’t stand up to Republican leadership. How would you respond to this claim?
DH: Congresswoman Jacky Rosen is a blind partisan who has repeatedly failed Nevadans during her short time in Congress. Jacky Rosen has voted with (Democratic Minority House Speaker) Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif) nearly 900 times, including against important legislation to fund children’s health care, bring accountability to the VA, provide terminally-ill patients the right to try, and more.
I have a long history of standing up for Nevadans and bucking Republican leaders to do what’s right for this state. During the economic downturn, I was the only member of the Nevada delegation to vote against the Wall Street bailout. And, I was the lead Republican cosponsor of a bipartisan, temporary extension of unemployment benefits. Under President Trump, I’ve voiced concern over the policy of separating families at the border and have successfully stopped the Administration from moving forward on their plans to restart Yucca Mountain every turn.
VLM: Question 8: What would your top priorities be, should you win re-election in Nevada?
DH: Nevada is on the right track, and as a strong supporter of pro-growth policies that cut regulation, and lower taxes, I am the candidate that will keep this economy booming. I am committed to making sure that we continue to create jobs, raise wages, and give hardworking families the relief that they deserve.
While I’m proud of my record and the accomplishments we’ve been able to achieve together during my time in the Senate, there’s more work to do. If re-elected this November, I look forward to working with Nevadans and my colleagues to tackle the opioid epidemic, improve our aging infrastructure, and help combat our state’s troubling veteran suicide rate.
Question 9: Are you concerned with the timing of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s upcoming report, which could come close to the mid-term elections?
DH: No, I’m not. While I believe that the current investigation being conducted by Special Counsel Robert Mueller should be thorough and provide the American people with the answers they expect and deserve, I also believe that it should be completed expeditiously and not delayed or politicized.
Valerie Miller is an award-winning, Las Vegas Valley-based writer who can be reached at (702) 683-3986 or firstname.lastname@example.org.