CARSON CITY, Nevada (AP) – Former U.S. Senator Dean Heller will announce a candidacy for Nevada governor on Monday, joining a crowded group of Republican hopefuls vying to topple Democratic Gov. Steve Sisolak in 2022.
His entry into the battlefield state race adds a top candidate to what is expected to be among the most competitive in next year’s 36 gubernatorial elections.
The Carson City Republican Party has scheduled Heller to show up for a “special announcement” at his seat. A party official and someone close to the campaign not authorized to comment publicly on the “special announcement” in advance confirmed that the former senator would declare his candidacy at an event in the state capital.
If he does, he will join an estate that includes Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo, North Las Vegas Mayor John Lee, attorney Joey Gilbert, surgeon Fred Simon and businessmen Guy Nohra. The gubernatorial primary is slated to take place in June 2022.
Heller, through a representative, declined to comment on his plans for the announcement. During a Basque-themed barbecue greeted by US Senate candidate Adam Laxalt in August, he told The Associated Press he would decide after Labor Day.
Carson City Republican Committee Chairman Scott Hoen declined to say what Heller’s planned announcement entailed. He said he expected 50 to 60 guests to cram into the small chapter space on Monday morning.
The unspecified announcement will be followed by an event in Las Vegas, but Hoen said Carson City has special significance for Heller as a hometown.
Heller, 61, has mostly retired from politics after losing a fierce 2018 US Senate race against Democrat Jacky Rosen, in which he resisted attacks from both left and right.
Then President Donald Trump reprimanded him in 2017 for initially opposing a Republican-led effort to repeal parts of the Affordable Care Act.
Heller and Trump reconciled when drafting the federal tax cut passed later in the year, and the two campaigned together before November 2018. During a Trump-hosted call with reporters in August 2020 , he paid tribute to the president. and said he spent most of his time working on his farm and digging irrigation ditches in rural Smith Valley in northern Nevada. But Heller has not publicly weighed in on Trump’s false allegations of fraud and some of his supporters are trying to overturn the 2020 presidential election results.
In a statement after the Carson City GOP announced the event, Mallory Payne, spokesperson for the Nevada Democratic Victory group working to re-elect Sisolak, previewed the Nevada Democrats’ line of attack for 2022.
“Dean Heller is entering a civil war, but let’s be clear – he’s fighting for himself, not the Nevadans. The Nevadans have already dismissed Heller once after prioritizing caving in his base to save his career over doing his job, ”she said, referring to her relationship with Trump and her decision to finally vote for a proposal to repeal the simplified ACA.
If Heller can tell voters about his turbulent history with Trump, who remains a standard-bearer for Republicans in Nevada, he will likely enjoy wide name recognition and a rolodex of donors he has collected over the course of five statewide races – two for the US Senate and three for Secretary of State.
His entry into the race comes as other candidates try to consolidate support from major donors.
Last week, a political action committee led by Mark Hutchison, the former lieutenant governor who now chairs Lombardo’s campaign, raised eyebrows when it submitted a $ 2.1 million campaign fundraiser. months before the year-end deadline, reporting contributions from an incorporated company. last year that lists Las Vegas real estate developer Robert Bigelow as its sole executive. In Nevada, state-registered independent PACs are not subject to campaign spending limits.
In recent months, Heller has sought GOP clubs across Nevada ahead of its expected announcement. He gave a three-minute speech alongside fellow candidates Gilbert and Lombardo at a rural county Republican event in June. At Basque Fry last month, he welcomed participants from the general public and the VIP section, but did not speak.
Nevada Democrats currently hold three seats in the United States House, two seats in the United States Senate, the governorship and control of both houses of the state. But President Joe Biden won the state by 2.4 percentage points – a smaller margin for Democrats than all but four battlegrounds. Sisolak beat Laxalt by 4.1 percentage points in 2018.
Republicans are hoping past trends that have shifted midterm voters to the opposition party will allow them to overthrow governorships and seats in the U.S. Senate. They hope the effect of the pandemic on Nevada’s tourism-fueled economy and opposition to Sisolak’s coronavirus measures convince voters.
Sam Metz is a member of the Associated Press / Report for America Statehouse News Initiative corps. Report for America is a national, non-profit service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to cover undercover issues.