Heck Hopes to Mimic Reid in Nevada But for GOP

Trump leads Clinton in the Silver State

Rep. Joe Heck, R-Nev., Republican candidate for U.S. Senate from Nevada, speaks to supporters at a campaign stop at the Prospector Hotel & Casino in Ely, Nev., on Saturday, Oct. 15, 2016. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

HENDERSON, Nev. — Rep. Joe Heck doesn’t merely want to succeed Harry Reid in the Senate.

The three-term congressman wants to build a Republican Party apparatus in the state that rivals what Reid’s led.

“We have invested heavily in trying to build, you know, a somewhat nascent but analogous operation this year,” Heck told reporters gathered in a campaign office here Saturday morning.

A campaign aide said that Republicans were chipping away at the Democratic registration advantage in the state, which was roughly 85,000 at last check.

Heck said that his campaign was leveraging volunteers from the various hotly contested House races.

“We, our campaign, have provided the hardware and software, the number crunchers to help all of those other candidates,” Heck said, conceding that the state GOP has long lagged behind their counterparts on the Democratic side.

To be sure, Heck has to overcome a most unusual challenge at the top of the ticket — with Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump — in order to defeat former Nevada Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto and win what the Rothenberg & Gonzales Political Report/Roll Call has billed a tossup race.

Cortez Masto blasted Heck during Friday evening’s Senate debate — the only one on the schedule — for supporting Trump until about a week ago.

Heck disavowed Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump after the revelation of a 2005 video in which Trump bragged about being able to grope and otherwise touch women without consent or consequences.

Trump and his allies said that was “locker room talk,” but the week that followed brought a steady stream of women alleging sexual assault.

During Friday night’s debate in North Las Vegas, Heck said that he has worked with sexual assault victims during his time as a military physician. He’s an Army reserve doctor, with the rank of brigadier general.

Heck also said that his wife had a prior abusive relationship, the details of which he politely declined to discuss with a gaggle of reporters Saturday morning.

“We knew there was going to be some fallout,” Heck said of his decision to drop Trump. The New York businessman has run ahead of Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton in Nevada.

Heck has faced criticism from Trump supporters, some of whom visibly split with him during public events.

“I think that once the initial shock or disappointment wears off that a lot of them will come back home,” Heck said. “It’s just explaining to folks the importance of this race and maintaining the majority in the U.S. Senate, regardless of who the occupant of the White House is.”

State Democrats believe Heck is boxed in by the late decision to unendorse Trump. His campaign has responded by criticizing Cortez Masto for not disavowing various awkward or offensive statements by Reid.

Harry Reid said a Muslim cannot win a race for congress. And Harry Reid referred to a woman Senator as the hottest member,” are the kinds of lines spoken directly to the camera from the women featured in the web ad.

As for Reid’s party infrastructure — that Heck seems to want to mimic to a point — Heck thinks that’ll fade away after the current election season, noting that GOP candidates ran the table in 2014.

“The machine was absent, and that was because Harry was absent. Harry was more concerned about trying to save the Senate,” Heck said. “Without him here being the person running the machine, the Democratic machine is gone after 2016.”

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