Updated 9:38 a.m. | Rep. Joe Heck has told some Nevada Republicans he is close to deciding to run for Senate, a source told CQ Roll Call Tuesday, and the conversations have prompted speculation among Nevada Republicans that an announcement could come sooner rather than later.
Heck would be a top recruit for Republicans looking to take the seat being vacated by Sen. Harry Reid. The congressman had initially said he would not run, but recently declared he was reconsidering.
According to the source, Heck said in a recent conversation he had not yet made a final decision, but he was close to making one.
Heck consultant Ryan Erwin told CQ Roll Call the congressman has not made a decision yet.
But Nevada operatives were abuzz this week about the rumored movement in Heck’s camp.
The congressman will likely wait for Gov. Brian Sandoval to formally declare he will not run for Senate. Sandoval is by most accounts the GOP dream candidate, and he retains right of first refusal. Sandoval has given every indication he will not run, but he has dragged out speculation by not giving a definitive answer. That answer will likely come after the legislative session ends in June.
“We’re not gonna make our decision based on who is or is not in the race; we’re gonna make a decision based on what would make sense for my family,” Heck told CQ Roll Call on May 15 at the Capitol. He said he had no timeline for making an announcement, but was encouraged by “folks expressing their support.”
“There’s been some polls done that we’re looking at,” he said, though he did not say whether those polls had been conducted on his behalf.
If Heck does take the plunge into the Senate race, a lot of dominoes will tip with him.
State Senate Majority Leader Michael Roberson is expected to quickly, if not immediately, announce his candidacy for Heck’s 3rd District House seat. Democrats already have a prospective candidate, philanthropist Susie Lee, who has acknowledged looking at the swing district seat Democrats have unsuccessfully targeted in the past. Lee says she could also decide to run in the 4th District instead.
But Roberson might not have the field to himself. Las Vegas City Councilman Bob Beers, the only Republican who has yet entered the Senate race, is friendly with Heck, and Nevada Republicans have questioned whether he would run against him. Some said he might choose to enter a primary with Roberson for the House seat instead.
Nevada is one of Republicans' only pick-up opportunities in 2016. It is also a must-win for Democrats, who need a net gain of five seats to win a majority. Heck, a respected congressman and strong fundraiser, is someone who could potentially clear the field and prevent a messy Republican primary .
Reid has endorsed former Attorney General Catherine Cortez-Masto, a Democrat to replace him. Democratic Rep. Dina Titus is also considering a bid.
The race is rated Tilts Democrat by the Rothenberg & Gonzales Political Report/Roll Call.
Correction 9:36 a.m. A previous version of this article misstated Roberson's title. He is Nevada's Senate majority leader.
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