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Tough Election Cycles Leave Rift in Relationship Between Reid, Heller

Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call
Reid and Heller continue to diverge on some judicial nominations, including that of Cadish to the U.S. District Court for the District of Nevada.

Nevada Sens. Harry Reid, a Democrat, and Dean Heller, a Republican, are having trouble getting over two tense election cycles that have strained both their friendship and their working relationship.

While Reid has long attempted to forge good relationships with members of both parties in Nevada’s congressional delegation, the 2010 and 2012 elections frayed his friendship with Heller, who previously served in the House.

A spokeswoman for Heller said his 2012 race, in which Reid campaigned against him, has taken a toll, but the two senators are attempting to put it behind them.

“Before the campaign, Sen. Heller and Sen. Reid might be considered good friends,” Heller’s spokeswoman said. “Post-campaign, the more appropriate description would be that the two are friends.”

A GOP source close to Heller said, “Team Reid spent $10 million on attack ads and millions more on the ground to defeat Dean Heller. A level of involvement that was not only unprecedented but also not soon to be forgotten by Team Heller.”

A spokeswoman for Reid said, “The past two election cycles there have been big Senate races,” adding that Nevada is a swing state and that the contests were very competitive.

Heller squeaked out a victory against former Rep. Shelley Berkley, a Democrat, in November. Similarly, the majority leader faced a tough bid for a fifth term in 2010.

But the spark for much of the duo’s current tension came last September, when Reid blamed Heller for failing to win Republican votes for an online poker bill that is a priority of powerful home-state casino interests.

“A pretty political move on [Reid’s] part,” said David Damore, a political science professor at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, who added it was “pretty nasty during the campaign.”

Now that the elections are behind them, the two are looking to get past the campaign.

“They are committed to working together,” Reid’s spokeswoman said, noting that the senators have known each other for a long time and have a friendly relationship.

One growing pain in their burgeoning working relationship is the nomination of Elissa Cadish to join the U.S. District Court for the District of Nevada. Reid supports Cadish, while Heller has concerns about her stance on gun rights.

“We are still working on it, I don’t have an answer for you right now,” Heller said last week when asked what he expects to happen with Cadish’s nomination.

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