Senate Republicans are playing a lot of defense in the 2016 election cycle, but their brightest hope for winning a seat held by Democrats not only buoys GOP hopes for keeping a majority but has the party on the brink of capturing the seat held by retiring Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid.
Reid, D-Nevada, is stepping down after 30 years in the Senate. The battle for his seat is a very close contest between GOP Rep. Joe Heck and Democrat Catherine Cortez Masto, the former attorney general of Nevada.
Heck, who is also a physician and Army reservist, was first elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 2010. He says in this chaotic election season, keeping the U.S. Senate in Republican hands ought to be a major priority.
“The most critical issue is to ensure we have a Republican majority in the U.S. Senate, regardless of who’s in the White House. We want to make sure there’s a system of checks and balances. We want to make sure that we facilitate good ideas, block bad ideas and, of course, make sure that we are running the confirmation hearings for the next Supreme Court justices,” said Heck.
Heck was the the party’s top choice to seek the open Senate seat. For much of the general election season, he enjoyed a small but steady lead over Cortex Masto. In the past couple of weeks, however, Masto has edged ahead although the race is easily within the margin of error.
Heck says Nevada is a tough state for Republicans but he is vigorously pursuing every vote.
“It’s the demographics of our state. The population has changed significantly. Nevada, which had historically been a red state, is now really a blue state. There’s an 88,000 Democrat voter edge in our state, a growing Latino population. So it makes it that much harder to get out and talk to folks and earn their votes, but that’s exactly what we’re doing,” said Heck.
“We’ve done that over the last 18 months. I’m the only candidate in this race that has held public events in all 17 counties, making sure that people all across the state have the opportunity to learn about who I am, where I am on the issues, and why I want to be their next U.S. senator,” said Heck.
The congressman says four issues come up most with voters: jobs and the economy, national security, health care, and education. Heck says he has direct experience in all those areas that can improve the lives of Nevadans and all Americans, starting with the economy.
“I owned my own company. I had a business. I know what it’s like to make a payroll, to actually hire folks and put people to work. I know what the impact is of every regulation that’s passed by a state, local, or federal government and what it does to a small business owner,” said Heck.
On national security, he says his time in the U.S. Army prepares him very well to face the challenges confronting our nation.
“I’ve served in uniform for 26 years. I continue to serve in the Army Reserve. I’ve had the honor to command some of the finest men and women this country has to offer, three tours of duty overseas. I know what it takes to keep our country safe,” said Heck.
According to his website, Heck directed emergency services and the aeromedical evacuation section of a combat support hospital in Al-Anbar province during his time in Iraq. He says he is acutely aware of America’s health care needs as well.
“I’m a practicing physician. I’ve worked in inner city hospital emergency departments for over 20 years. If you ever want to see what works and what doesn’t work, come spend some time in an inner city hospital emergency department,” said Heck.
He is also the parent of three children who have gone through the public school and public universities in Nevada. He says that gives him the same insights as other Nevada parents.
“My opponent has no real world experience in any of those issues,” he said.
On the other hand, Heck says people know they’ll just get more of the same with Cortez Masto.
“She is Harry Reid’s hand-picked candidate, so we would expect her to continue down the same path of failed policies that Harry Reid has championed over the last decade, certainly over the last eight years in aiding and abetting the president, and one of the reasons we still have a stagnant economic recovery with sluggish economic growth, stagnant wages, a failed foreign policy that has caused our allies to no longer trust us and our adversaries to no longer fear us,” said Heck.
“She came out in support of the Iran nuclear deal, which certainly does nothing to stop Iran from getting a nuclear weapon. She did so in a quid pro quo, after Harry Reid and the president conducted a fundraiser for her here in Nevada,” said Heck.
Heck is also committed to protecting land rights for ranchers and other family businesses in Nevada. He vows to fight against protected federal status for the sage grouse and against the Waters of the United States, or WOTUS, Rule.
“A dry irrigation ditch on a farm, once it has some water in it, would be considered a navigable waterway, subject to all the regulatory requirements of the Clean Waters Act. That’s going to have a significant impact,” said Heck,
The federal government owns about 87 percent of all the land in Nevada. Heck wants to see the federal government relinquish some of that back to the state and locales. He says doing that, while protecting treasured parks and forests, would allow the state to bring in more property tax revenue and use that to improve Nevada’s lagging schools.
Heck says his six years in Washington have proven he can get things done. He says he has built relationships on both sides of Capitol Hill that will pave the way for positive change. He says his track record in the House proves that he can things done, even with President Obama in the White House.
“I’ve had bills that address veterans’ homelessness, bills that have addressed the victims of human trafficking, legislation that actually creates good-paying jobs in southern Nevada by transferring an old abandoned mine site that’s owned by the federal government to a local redevelopment authority so that it can be remediated, reclaimed and developed at no cost to the taxpayer, and supporting our men and women in uniform which is critical to our national security,” said Heck.
Republicans currently hold a 54-46 majority in Senate. Democrats need to flip four Republican seats to retake the majority if Hillary Clinton wins the presidential race. They would need to win five GOP seats five if Donald Trump wins.