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Heck makes Senate bid official

Rep. Joe Heck today made it official — he’s running for the U.S. Senate seat currently held by the retiring Harry Reid.

“I’m excited to officially announce my candidacy for U.S. Senate. Let’s build a stronger Nevada together!,” Heck said on Twitter, adding the hashtag #HeckYes.

The announcement kicks off what’s sure to be Heck’s toughest campaign since winning the 3rd Congressional District seat from Rep. Dina Titus in 2010. He’ll face off against former two-term Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto, who has won statewide races with 60 percent in 2006 and 53 percent in 2010.

Heck, who just a few months ago said his answer to running for Senate was no, will give up a seat he’s won with little difficulty in 2012 and 2014, as well as the chairmanship of the Military Personnel subcommittee of the House Armed Services Committee.

He brings a distinguished resume to the race: He’s an osteopathic physician who practiced emergency medicine. He’s a brigadier general in the U.S. Army reserves, and he served a tour of duty in Iraq during Operation Iraqi Freedom. And he served a single term in the Nevada state Senate from 2004 to 2008, before being ousted by Shirley Breeden in an election wave led by President Barack Obama.

Although Heck is generally a loyal Republican, he’s been known to break with his party on occasion. He criticized House leaders in 2013 for a “leadership vacuum” after they failed to bring any immigration reform bill to the floor, even ones sponsored by Heck and his fellow Republicans.

But a statewide Senate race is a completely different campaign than Heck has ever waged before. Masto has the full backing of Reid and some of the Democratic operatives who have helped propel the Senate majority leader to victory in past races against the political odds. She’s a Latina in a year when immigration reform is a front-burner issue, and the percentage of the Nevada electorate that his Latino is on the rise. She’s pro-choice, he’s pro-life. She embraces gay marriage, he does not.

Perhaps ironically, both Heck and Masto are known as cautious campaigners not given to making unforced errors. (Heck has stumbled a bit in the past: He once repeatedly called Social Security a “pyramid scheme,” but that’s more the exception that proves the rule.)

Moreover, both Heck and Masto have enjoyed relatively easy victories later in their careers. Masto handily defeated former District Court Judge Don Chairez in 2004 and Travis Barrick in 2008. After a close call in 2010 against Titus (Heck only defeated the then-incumbent by 1,748 votes that year), Heck easily defeated former Assembly Speaker John Oceguera in 2012 (50 percent to 43 percent) and political trainer Erin Bilbray in 2014 (60 percent to 36 percent).

The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee didn’t wait long after Heck’s Tweet to reply. Said Communications Director Justin Barasky in a statement:

“Congressman Heck has spent his time in Washington catering to insurance companies, big banks and Washington special interests instead of Nevada families and he will struggle to explain his anti-middle class record throughout the campaign.

“Democrats have a strong candidate in Catherine Cortez Masto who’s won statewide twice before and has spent her career protecting everyday Nevadans and fighting for their interests. We look forward to a comparison of their records and know Catherine Cortez Masto will be a great senator who always puts Nevada first.”

UPDATE: The National Republican Congressional Committee issued a statement of its own, predicting the GOP would keep Heck’s 3rd Congressional District seat, but declining to name a preferred candidate. (State Sen. Michael Roberson, R-Henderson, is interested in the seat and is considered the front-runner.)

“The GOP has a strong bench of qualified individuals in the 3rd District and we are confident that this seat will remain in Republican hands,” said NRCC Spokesman Zach Hunter.

Also, Heck released a video announcement via YouTube. That announcement is linked below:

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