Almanac A members-only database of searchable profiles compiled and adapted from the Almanac of American Politics

Sen. Dean Heller (R)

Nevada

N/A

heller.senate.gov

Biography

Elected: Appointed May 2011, term expires 2018, 1st full term.

Born: May 10, 1960, Castro Valley, CA

Home: Carson City

Education: U. of S. CA, B.A. 1985

Professional Career: Stockbroker, 1983-88; Chief deputy state treas., 1988-90; Public funds rep., Bank of America, 1990-95.

Ethnicity: White/Caucasian

Religion: Mormon

Family: married (Lynne) , 4 children

Republican Dean Heller was appointed Nevada’s junior senator in May 2011 after Republican Sen. John Ensign resigned amid a scandal involving an extramarital affair and allegations of a hush-money scheme. He went on to win the seat in the 2012 election even as Democratic President Barack Obama carried Nevada that year.

Heller was a political fixture in Carson City long before he won his first House contest in 2006. He got a taste of politics during childhood when his newspaper route included deliveries at the state Capitol. He graduated from the University of Southern California in 1985 with a degree in business administration, and then worked as a stockbroker trading on the Pacific Stock Exchange. In 1990, he won the first of two terms in the Nevada House, and in 1994, he was elected to the first of three terms as Nevada secretary of state. During his 12-year tenure, Heller streamlined the corporation registration process, increasing revenues tenfold. He supported more public access to government records and greater transparency in the state campaign finance system. Nevada was seen as a national model in 2004, when it became the first state to create a paper trail for its electronic voting machines.

Heller decided to make a bid for the U.S. House when five-term Republican Jim Gibbons gave up the 2nd District seat to run for governor. Heller faced competition for the Republican nomination from Assemblywoman Sharron Angle and former Assemblywoman Dawn Gibbons, the outgoing congressman’s wife. Heller and Gibbons began with the strongest name recognition, but Gibbons’ underfunded candidacy never took off. Angle, a Christian conservative, emerged as a serious primary rival after she picked up the endorsement and financial support of the deep-pocketed Club for Growth, a national anti-tax group. Angle ran as the race’s true conservative, while Heller campaigned on his record in state office and called for cuts in taxes and government spending. He won the nomination with 36% of the vote, a 421-vote victory over Angle, who got 35%. Gibbons finished third with 25%. Angle went on to give Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada a tough race in 2010.

Heller entered the general election campaign with a depleted campaign treasury to face Democrat Jill Derby, an 18-year veteran of the Nevada Board of Regents. He ran the race as a referendum on President George W. Bush, emphasizing his support for the Iraq war, for making Bush’s tax cuts permanent, and for creating private Social Security accounts for young workers. While many Republican candidates elsewhere considered Bush a liability in 2006, the president stumped twice for Heller and helped motivate the traditionally Republican-leaning rural vote. Derby emphasized her rural roots, criticized Heller for his stance on the war, and framed the election as a chance for voters to reject Republican control in Washington. Heller defeated her 50%-45%, and won reelection with ease in 2008 and 2010.

In early 2011, Heller was being mentioned as a candidate for Ensign’s seat. Once seen as a rising star, Ensign’s political career had begun to unravel in June 2009, when he publicly admitted to having an extramarital affair with the wife of his top Senate aide. The following month, Ensign admitted that his parents had paid the woman and former aide $96,000, but he maintained that the money was a gift and not intended to buy her silence. Other revelations related to the affair followed, and Ensign’s poll numbers plummeted. He announced in March that he would not seek another term, and then a month later said he would resign immediately.

In selecting Heller to replace Ensign, Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval cited the need for an “experienced voice” in Washington. Nevada was among the states hardest hit by the 2007-09 recession and in March 2011 had an unemployment rate of 13.2%, the nation’s highest.

In the Senate, Heller has been unafraid to defy his party. On the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, he called for an end to some of the same subsidies to large oil companies that Democrats have sought to repeal. He was the only Republican senator to support a Democratic balanced-budget plan in December 2011, and one of just five Republicans in October 2011 to join Democrats in rejecting an amendment that would have limited the taxpayer liability for mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. He also was one of 12 GOP senators in January 2013 to support raising the federal debt limit. The latter measure included his bill to cut off the salaries of House and Senate members in years they do not meet deadlines to pass a budget or individual spending bills.

Heller's decision in the fall of 2013 to support a major civil rights bill for gay people attracted considerable national attention. The Employment Non-Discrimination Act had been stalled in the Senate for lack of a 60th vote to break a threatened fillibuster against the bill, which would bar discrimination against gays in the workplace. On November 4, Heller issued a statement saying he would vote for the bill, giving Democrats a sufficient number of Republican votes for passage. "After listening to Nevadans' concerns about this issue from a variety of viewpoints and after numerous conversations with my colleagues, I feel that supporting this legislation is the right thing to do," Heller wrote, noting that Nevada had a similar law on the books. The federal bill passed 64 to 32 later that week, with Heller joining a group of 10 Republicans voting yes.

During the 2012 presidential campaign, when GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney said in a secretly videotaped speech that 47% of voters wouldn’t support him because they depended on government, Heller was among the first in the party to publicly distance himself from Romney. “I have a very different view of the world,” Heller told The New York Times. Though Majority Leader Harry Reid avoided feuding with Ensign, he tangled openly with Heller, most prominently over a bill legalizing online poker that both supported. Reid accused Heller in September 2012 of “a failure of leadership” for failing to round up the 15 Senate votes needed for passage; Heller responded that Reid deliberately waited until close to the November 6 election to bring up a vote on Internet gaming, knowing that it would not pass.

Democrats made a priority of denying Heller a full term in 2012. His general-election rival was Rep. Shelley Berkley, a flamboyant Democrat who had served with him on the House Ways and Means Committee. Berkley hitched her wagon to Obama’s, aware that the president would make an all-out effort to win a state that he had captured in 2008.

In one of the 2012 political season’s nastiest races, she and other Democrats attacked Heller for his support of House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan’s budget plan as well as for contributions he had taken from business. But Berkley had a significant piece of political baggage—she was the subject of a House ethics committee investigation into whether she used her position to benefit the financial interests of her husband, who operates dialysis centers in Nevada. Heller sought to raise broader questions about Berkley’s ethics, running ads that questioned her real estate investments and a 2008 taxpayer-funded trip to Italy after attending a conference in neighboring Slovenia. He got considerable financial help from conservative casino mogul Sheldon Adelson, who had a history of feuding with Berkley.

Heller managed to eke out a 45.9%-44.7% victory, with Independent American Party candidate David VanderBeek drawing 5% and the “none of the above” option registering 4.5%. He won his native Washoe County, which includes Reno, with 51%, while holding Berkley to 50% in her stronghold of Las Vegas-based Clark County. Nevada’s geographical divide also likely helped him. Robert Lang, a political scientist at the University of Nevada-Las Vegas, told National Journal after the election that northern Nevadans, who surrendered long-standing political dominance of the state to Las Vegas-area politicians in recent decades, “vote their interests” and do not want to have two southern senators.

When he was a member of the House, Heller broke with conservatives on some issues, but was generally a reliable Republican vote. He got into an unusual family squabble in 2008, when he criticized what he called the limited impact of the Republican takeover of the House led by Republican Newt Gingrich in 1994. “They came to change Washington, and Washington changed them,” he said, adding that he thought it was time for Republicans to clean house. But Heller was enough of a loyalist to land a coveted seat on Ways and Means in the 111th Congress (2009-10). He proposed a series of unsuccessful amendments to the health care overhaul, including one requiring members of Congress to take part in a proposed government-run “public option” and another forgiving education loans for doctors and nurses who agree to work in underserved areas. He also had no luck adding a provision to a small business tax bill in March 2010 to allow a capital gains exclusion of up to $50,000 for non-primary residences in one of the nation’s top 200 high foreclosure areas.

Office Contact Information

MAIN OFFICE

(202) 224-6244

(202) 228-6753

HSOB- Hart Senate Office Building Room 324
Washington, DC 20510-2806

MAIN OFFICE

(202) 224-6244

(202) 228-6753

HSOB- Hart Senate Office Building Room 324
Washington, DC 20510-2806

DISTRICT OFFICE

(702) 388-6605

(702) 388-6501

8930 West Sunset Road Suite 230
Las Vegas, NV 89148

DISTRICT OFFICE

(702) 388-6605

(702) 388-6501

8930 West Sunset Road Suite 230
Las Vegas, NV 89148

DISTRICT OFFICE

(775) 686-5770

(775) 686-5729

Bruce Thompson Federal Building Suite 738
Reno, NV 89501-2116

DISTRICT OFFICE

(775) 686-5770

(775) 686-5729

Bruce Thompson Federal Building Suite 738
Reno, NV 89501-2116

DISTRICT OFFICE

(775) 738-2001

(775) 738-2004

3290 Idaho Street Suite 2A
Elko, NV 89801

DISTRICT OFFICE

(775) 738-2001

(775) 738-2004

3290 Idaho Street Suite 2A
Elko, NV 89801

Staff

Sort by: Interest Name Title

Abortion

Emily Wilkinson
Legislative Assistant

Adam Miller
Legislative Correspondent

Aerospace

Scarlet Doyle
Legislative Assistant

Agriculture

Jeremy Harrell
Legislative Assistant

Andrew Williams
Legislative Correspondent

Appropriations

Emily Wilkinson
Legislative Assistant

Adam Miller
Legislative Correspondent

Arts

Emily Wilkinson
Legislative Assistant

Adam Miller
Legislative Correspondent

Banking

Chana Elgin
Legislative Correspondent

Budget

Commerce

Scarlet Doyle
Legislative Assistant

Chana Elgin
Legislative Correspondent

Stephen Sifuentes
Regional Representative

Crime

Rachel Green
Legislative Assistant

John Knobel
Legislative Correspondent

Disaster

Scarlet Doyle
Legislative Assistant

Mark Sutliff
Regional Representative

Economics

Education

Emily Wilkinson
Legislative Assistant

Rachel Green
Legislative Assistant

John Knobel
Legislative Correspondent

Adam Miller
Legislative Correspondent

Andrew Lingenfelter
Regional Representative

Stephen Sifuentes
Regional Representative

Energy

Jeremy Harrell
Legislative Assistant

Andrew Williams
Legislative Correspondent

Environment

Jeremy Harrell
Legislative Assistant

Andrew Williams
Legislative Correspondent

Stephen Sifuentes
Regional Representative

Samuel Crampton
Regional Representative

Family

Emily Wilkinson
Legislative Assistant

Rachel Green
Legislative Assistant

John Knobel
Legislative Correspondent

Adam Miller
Legislative Correspondent

Foreign

Scarlet Doyle
Legislative Assistant

Gambling

Sarah Paul
Legislative Director

Rachel Green
Legislative Assistant

Chana Elgin
Legislative Correspondent

John Knobel
Legislative Correspondent

Stephen Sifuentes
Regional Representative

Govt Ops

Rachel Green
Legislative Assistant

John Knobel
Legislative Correspondent

Andrew Williams
Legislative Correspondent

Andrew Lingenfelter
Regional Representative

Katie Pace
Constituent Services Manager (North)

Grants

Andrew Lingenfelter
Regional Representative

Gun Issues

Emily Wilkinson
Legislative Assistant

Rachel Green
Legislative Assistant

John Knobel
Legislative Correspondent

Adam Miller
Legislative Correspondent

Health

Emily Wilkinson
Legislative Assistant

Rachel Green
Legislative Assistant

John Knobel
Legislative Correspondent

Adam Miller
Legislative Correspondent

Bradley Sensibaugh
Regional Representative

Katie Pace
Constituent Services Manager (North)

Homeland Security

Scarlet Doyle
Legislative Assistant

Michael Mendenhall
Regional Representative

Housing

Human Rights

Emily Wilkinson
Legislative Assistant

Adam Miller
Legislative Correspondent

Immigration

Sarah Paul
Legislative Director

Rachel Green
Legislative Assistant

Chana Elgin
Legislative Correspondent

John Knobel
Legislative Correspondent

Andrew Lingenfelter
Regional Representative

Michael Mendenhall
Regional Representative

Internet

Scarlet Doyle
Legislative Assistant

Judiciary

Rachel Green
Legislative Assistant

John Knobel
Legislative Correspondent

Andrew Lingenfelter
Regional Representative

Stephen Sifuentes
Regional Representative

Labor

Emily Wilkinson
Legislative Assistant

Rachel Green
Legislative Assistant

John Knobel
Legislative Correspondent

Adam Miller
Legislative Correspondent

Andrew Lingenfelter
Regional Representative

Michael Mendenhall
Regional Representative

Land Use

Jeremy Harrell
Legislative Assistant

Andrew Williams
Legislative Correspondent

Samuel Crampton
Regional Representative

Medicare

Katie Pace
Constituent Services Manager (North)

Military

Scarlet Doyle
Legislative Assistant

Margot Allen
Regional Representative

Glenna Smith
Regional Representative

Mark Sutliff
Regional Representative

Minorities

Emily Wilkinson
Legislative Assistant

Adam Miller
Legislative Correspondent

Stephen Sifuentes
Regional Representative

Native Americans

Jeremy Harrell
Legislative Assistant

Andrew Williams
Legislative Correspondent

Public Works

Scarlet Doyle
Legislative Assistant

Jeremy Harrell
Legislative Assistant

Andrew Williams
Legislative Correspondent

Rules

Emily Wilkinson
Legislative Assistant

Rachel Green
Legislative Assistant

John Knobel
Legislative Correspondent

Adam Miller
Legislative Correspondent

Rural Affairs

Samuel Crampton
Regional Representative

Seniors

Rachel Green
Legislative Assistant

John Knobel
Legislative Correspondent

Small Business

Stephen Sifuentes
Regional Representative

Social Security

Emily Wilkinson
Legislative Assistant

Rachel Green
Legislative Assistant

John Knobel
Legislative Correspondent

Adam Miller
Legislative Correspondent

Bradley Sensibaugh
Regional Representative

Katie Pace
Constituent Services Manager (North)

Tax

Victoria Glover
Legislative Assistant

Chana Elgin
Legislative Correspondent

Andrew Lingenfelter
Regional Representative

Michael Mendenhall
Regional Representative

Telecommunications

Scarlet Doyle
Legislative Assistant

Trade

Victoria Glover
Legislative Assistant

Chana Elgin
Legislative Correspondent

Transportation

Jeremy Harrell
Legislative Assistant

Andrew Williams
Legislative Correspondent

Andrew Lingenfelter
Regional Representative

Stephen Sifuentes
Regional Representative

Veterans

Scarlet Doyle
Legislative Assistant

Adam Miller
Legislative Correspondent

Margot Allen
Regional Representative

Glenna Smith
Regional Representative

Mark Sutliff
Regional Representative

Welfare

Emily Wilkinson
Legislative Assistant

Rachel Green
Legislative Assistant

John Knobel
Legislative Correspondent

Adam Miller
Legislative Correspondent

Election Results

2012 GENERAL
Dean Heller
Votes: 457,656
Percent: 45.87%
Shelley Berkley
Votes: 446,080
Percent: 44.71%
2012 PRIMARY
Dean Heller
Votes: 88,958
Percent: 89.18%
Sherry Brooks
Votes: 5,356
Percent: 5.37%
2010 GENERAL
Dean Heller
Votes: 169,458
Percent: 63.3%
Nancy Price
Votes: 87,421
Percent: 32.66%
2010 PRIMARY
Dean Heller
Votes: 72,728
Percent: 83.7%
Patrick Colletti
Votes: 14,162
Percent: 16.3%
2008 GENERAL
Dean Heller
Votes: 170,771
Percent: 51.82%
Jill Derby
Votes: 136,548
Percent: 41.44%
2008 PRIMARY
Dean Heller
Votes: 43,112
Percent: 86.02%
James Smack
Votes: 7,009
Percent: 13.98%
Prior Winning Percentages
House: 2010 (63%), 2008 (52%), 2006 (50%)

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