MENU
component-ddb-728x90-v1-01-desktop

Nevada's race for U.S. Senate: One-on-one with Republican Joe Heck

Students learn about 911 operations (Jeff Gillan | KSNV News 3)

It's a beautiful May day and a backdrop any politician would love: a high school with a 100 percent graduation rate, filled with enthusiastic and engaged young Las Vegans.

Rep. Joe Heck, R-Nevada, came to the Veterans Tribute Career and Technical Academy, CCSD's magnet school for future police, dispatchers, forensics investigators, EMT's and firefighters.

"I have a special place in my heart for public safety," said Heck, a former volunteer firefighter and ambulance attendant who went on to become a doctor, businessman, congressman and brigadier general in the Army Reserves.

With a race for Senate swirling around him, Heck came here today to talk about a bill he's co-sponsoring that would protect funding for Nevada schools like this.

"So now we're working to get the bill passed," Heck told a gymnasium filled with students.

It's a beautiful May day and a backdrop any politician would love: a high school with a 100% graduation rate, filled with enthusiastic and engaged young Las Vegans.

Rep. Joe Heck, R-Nevada, came to the Veterans Tribute Career and Technical Academy, CCSD's magnet school for future police, dispatchers, forensics investigators, EMT's and firefighters.

"I have a special place in my heart for public safety," said Heck, a former volunteer firefighter and ambulance attendant who went on to become a doctor, businessman, Congressman and Brigadier General in the Army Reserves.

With a race for Senate swirling around him, Heck came here today to talk about a bill he's co-sponsoring that would protect funding for Nevada schools like this.

"So now we're working to get the bill passed," Heck told a gymnasium filled with students.

Heck was here for a tour. I met him out front to have him set the scene for me in his race for US Senate, which will be one of the most closely-watched and hardest-fought in the country.

His Democratic opponent is Catherine Cortez Masto, a two-term former Nevada Attorney General, who is Harry Reid's handpicked candidate to keep the seat in Democratic hands when Reid retires in January 2017.

"When you talk to folks around the state, they talk about one of four issues that are most concerning to them: jobs and the economy, health care, education or national security," Heck told me. "Fortunately, for me those are areas I actually worked inand so I think that makes me the better candidate to represent them in the US Senate."

Democrats have labeled Heck as too conservative and too eager to follow the Republican majority.

"The thing is, what is she for? All she is talking about is what is Joe Heck against, right?" Heck asked.

We spoke hours before Donald Trump won the Indiana Primary, putting him now clearly within striking distance of winning the GOP Nomination.

Cortez Masto's campaign wasted no time jumping on the victory. In a statement aimed at both Heck and his primary opponent, Sharron Angle, a campaign spokesperson said, "With Donald Trump becoming your party's presumptive nominee, your shared goal of ending DACA and DAPA just became the defacto position of the Republican party."

DACA and DAPA refer to two Obama initiatives to shield young people and their parents from deportation.

Democrats say Heck is against immigration reform. He says he isn't, but favors a different approach.

"I was against the bill passed by the Senate (referring to the 2013 immigration reform bill) because it didn't do anything to secure the borders and it had provisions in it totally unrelated to immigration," Heck said. "I have long said that our immigration system is broken. We have laws that aren't being enforced and that aren't effective. And we need to fix our immigration system and come up with a system that works for America, and I support that," he added.

Heck has not supported the President's executive actions to shield young immigrants but has also said he would not want promises made to individuals already in the DACA program rescinded.

The race will revolve around issues domestic and foreign. Heck calls Cortez Masto's support for a deal with Iran, designed to curb the country's nuclear bomb-making capacity, shortsighted. She has said the deal will blanket the country with inspectors and delay an Iranian bomb for years.

"Well, she's fatally flawed in her analysis of the deal, and I would doubt that she's actually read the deal," Heck told me. "It doesn't blanket them with inspectors."

"What really brought Iran to the table were the sanctions that were put into place by Congress and the administration, and we should have waited and negotiated from a position of strength, as opposed to capitulating and giving in," Heck said.

On health care, Cortez Masto wants to keep the Affordable Care Act and fix it. Heck wants to repeal it and replace it.

"What the health care bill does is get people access to health insurance, but not health care," Heck said. He wants to keep provisions that prevent insurance company abuses.

"Nobody should be dumped from their policy the day after they get cancer or non-renewed because now the insurance company thinks they're too old," he says.

Heck says the solution is increasing the number of doctors. "We need residency spots so that the graduates will stay here and train, and research shows roughly 60% to 70% of residents will stay where they train to open a practice," he said.

Republicans have worried a Donald Trump at the top of the ticket would spell down-ticket disaster. Heck's not, he says. "We're focused solely on our race throughout the state and making sure that we develop the relationships necessary to succeed," he told me.

Tuesday night saw Trump crush Cruz in Indiana, and it saw an even bigger surprise when Texas Senator Ted Cruz, before 6pm our time, dropped out of the race, leaving John Kasich now as the sole GOP alternative. Trump ends the evening on the verge of capturing the nomination.

I asked Heck if he'd support Trump, who now looks to be the presumptive nominee.

"Look, I'll support whoever the nominee is coming out of the convention," Heck said.

And will he be in Cleveland when Republicans meet in July?

"Well, I plan to be home. I've got a whole state that I've got to campaign in, so we're going to be here in Nevada campaigning."


Connect with Jeff Gillan on Facebook and Twitter.

Trending