Joe Heck, the Republican former state senator from Henderson, is laying the groundwork to run for governor in 2010, according to multiple Republican insiders.
He's not ready to announce anything publicly, but Heck has been talking to potential campaign consultants and donors about the prospect, and he recently spoke at Lincoln Day dinners in several rural counties.
Touring the annual GOP gatherings is de rigueur for Republicans planning on running statewide. Heck also contributed to rural county parties with leftover campaign funds.
"Joe Heck is running for governor," said one Republican consultant who spoke on condition of anonymity.
In an interview, Heck said he has been talking to plenty of people about plenty of things, but "we haven't decided about anything."
The purpose of the Lincoln Day circuit was to support the Republican Party in the rural counties and help it get back on its feet, he said.
"I think we need to make up our voter registration deficit, I think we need to heal the rifts that exist within our own party, and I think we need to get our message out to like-minded conservative Democrats and independents," he said today. "I'm confident that we'll be able to accomplish those three things, and that's why I went out on the Lincoln Day circuit, to spread that message."
An emergency physician and Army reservist, Heck is no stranger to tough Republican primaries. In 2004, he ousted former state Sen. Ann O'Connell in a bruising GOP contest. He served one term in the state Senate before being ousted narrowly by Democrat Shirley Breeden last year.
Gov. Jim Gibbons has said he plans to run for re-election in 2010. North Las Vegas Mayor Mike Montandon also has said he plans to get into the race on the Republican side, whether or not Gibbons runs.