WASHINGTON — Rep. Joe Heck took himself out of the running for a U.S. Senate race in 2016, saying Thursday it would complicate his duties as a congressman and newly promoted brigadier general in the U.S. Army Reserve.
Heck, who last week was elected to a third term in his district outside Las Vegas, has been mentioned as a possible Republican candidate against Democratic Sen. Harry Reid. Reid, the Senate Democratic leader, who turns 75 on Dec. 2 and says he is preparing to run again, has been declared the Republicans’ top target in the next election.
Party leaders would be expected to turn to Heck if their first choice, Gov. Brian Sandoval, turns down the opportunity. Others being mentioned as possible GOP candidates are Lt. Gov.-elect Mark Hutchison and former Lt. Gov. Brian Krolicki.
Heck gave a flat “no” when asked if he was interested in running.
“I don’t need to be asked,” he added in a brief interview. “The answer would be no.”
Heck, 53, said it would be appealing not to have to run for House re-election every two years. The 3rd Congressional District he represents, consisting of Henderson, Boulder City, and unincorporated parts of Clark County west and south of Las Vegas, was designed as a potential swing district where Republicans and Democrats are roughly even in voter registration. Senate terms are six years.
But, Heck said, “it would be very hard to serve as a congressman and run a statewide race. Then you are not in your district on the weekends, you are traveling around the state.”
Also, he said, “I still have a significant military obligation” that takes up more time since being promoted last month to brigadier general in the U.S. Army Reserve. Heck, who is trained as an emergency room physician, spends weekends each month and several weeks during the summer as deputy commander of the Atlanta-based 3rd Medical Command.
Heck said if he ran for Senate, “one if not two of those things would suffer. Either I would run a crappy campaign, the job as a congressman would slack or my military service would slack, and I’m not willing to jeopardize any of those things.”
In the House, Heck serves as chairman of subcommittees on the House Intelligence Committee and the House Armed Services Committee. He said he probably will remain on those panels, as well as the House Education and Workforce Committee, in the congressional session that starts in January.