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Former Nevada GOP senator rejected by voters now wants to be governor

Dean Heller lost a run for reelection in 2018 after caving to Donald Trump and backing his attempt to repeal Obamacare.

By Josh Israel - May 26, 2021
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Dean Heller

Less than three years ago, Nevada voters dumped incumbent Republican Sen. Dean Heller, voting for his Democratic challenger Jacky Rosen by a 5-point margin.

Heller apparently did not take the hint.

Politico reported on Wednesday that Heller is about to announce a 2022 gubernatorial challenge to Democratic Gov. Steve Sisolak. A few other Republicans have already announced their candidacies for the nomination.

In the 2016 presidential campaign, Heller declared himself to be “100 percent against [Hillary] Clinton, 99 percent against Trump.” But though Donald Trump lost the state — and would do so again in 2020 — Heller voted with him 91.6% of the time, backing Trump’s unpopular tax cuts for the wealthy and corporations and failed Affordable Care Act repeal effort.

Trump ran in 2016 on a promise to “immediately” repeal the health insurance law commonly known as Obamacare and replace it with something “terrific” that offered coverage to every single American. With no actual plan to do that, he instead signed on to a 2017 “Trumpcare” repeal plan that would have cost about 23 million Americans their coverage.

Polling in Nevada found wide opposition to the repeal effort. A survey in March 2017 found two voters against repealing Obamacare for every one who supported doing it. A poll that June found 55% opposition to the Trumpcare plan.

In June 2017, Heller and Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval held a joint press conference to oppose Trump’s legislation. But after Trump threatened to end Heller’s Senate career if he did oppose him, Heller quickly flip-flopped and backed Trump’s ultimately unsuccessful efforts.

In December 2017, after Heller backed Trump’s Tax Cut and Jobs legislation, Laura Packard, a stage 4 cancer patient and health care activist, tried to ask him at a town hall event about the law’s impact on Obamacare. She was escorted out of the room.

In August 2018, Heller lamented that the failure to repeal Obamacare was a “missed opportunity, without a doubt.”

Rosen made Heller’s anti-Obamacare record the key issue in her 2018 run for his seat, hitting him for his votes to take away protections for those with preexisting medical conditions.

Voters elected Rosen over Heller 50.4% to 45.4%.

Heller was out of touch with his constituents in other ways as well.

In February 2010, he opposed extending benefits for unemployed Americans during an economic downturn, warning that the government might be “creating hobos” by doing so.

Asked in January 2018 about Donald Trump’s racist comments about African nations and his boasts of serial sexual assaults, Heller immediately changed the subject and noted that Bill Clinton had had an extramarital affair.

Though Republicans blocked bipartisan efforts to create a path to legal status for undocumented people, Heller said that March that comprehensive reform was impossible because Democrats did not want immigrants to work. “Republicans want illegal immigrants to work but not vote. Democrats want them not to work, but to vote. Think about that for a minute,” he said in a speech. “That’s why we can’t come together on a solution for this.”

In September 2018, Heller voted to confirm Trump nominee Brett Kavanaugh to a lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court. Before even hearing testimony, he dismissed sexual assault allegations against Kavanaugh as just “a little hiccup” and vowed “we’ll get through this and we’ll get off to the races.”

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.


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