Dean Heller

Dean Heller
United States Senator
from Nevada
Assumed office
May 9, 2011
Serving with Harry Reid
Preceded by John Ensign
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Nevada's 2nd district
In office
January 3, 2007  May 9, 2011
Preceded by Jim Gibbons
Succeeded by Mark Amodei
15th Secretary of State of Nevada
In office
January 3, 1995  January 3, 2007
Governor Bob Miller
Kenny Guinn
Jim Gibbons
Preceded by Cheryl Lau
Succeeded by Ross Miller
Member of the Nevada Assembly
In office
Personal details
Born Dean Arthur Heller
(1960-05-10) May 10, 1960
Castro Valley, California, U.S.
Political party Republican
Spouse(s) Lynne Heller
Children 4
Alma mater University of Southern California (B.S.)
Religion Mormonism
Website Senate website
Campaign website

Dean Arthur Heller (born May 10, 1960) is the junior United States Senator from Nevada and a member of the Republican Party. Heller was appointed by Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval to a vacant seat created by the resignation of John Ensign. He was previously a member of the United States House of Representatives, representing Nevada's 2nd congressional district from 2007 to 2011. Prior to that he served as Secretary of State of Nevada (1995–2007) and a member of the Nevada Assembly (1991–1995). He ran in the 2012 election for the United States Senate seat to which he was appointed, and was declared the winner on November 7, 2012. Heller is set to become Nevada's senior senator when Harry Reid retires in 2017.

Early life, education, and business career

Heller was born in Castro Valley, California, to Janet (née MacNelly) and Charles Alfred "Jack" Heller, a stock car driver.[1] He is a longtime resident of Carson City, having moved there with his family at the age of 9 months.[2] He graduated from Carson High School in 1978,[3] and was accepted into the University of Southern California, he earned his bachelor of business administration, specializing in finance and securities analysis, from the USC Marshall School of Business in 1985.[4] While a student at USC, Heller joined the Sigma Nu social fraternity.[5]

Prior to entering politics, Heller worked as an stockbroker, and as a broker/trader on the Pacific Stock Exchange, from 1983 to 1988.[6] Heller then served as the Chief Deputy State Treasurer in the Nevada Office of the State Treasurer, from 1988 to 1990.[6]

Nevada Assembly

He served two terms in the Nevada Assembly from 1990 to 1994.[7] While in this legislature, Heller authored a bill to reform state retirement pensions. He represented the capital, Carson City. During his time in the Nevada Assembly, Heller also worked as a senior commercial banking consultant for Bank of America, from 1990 to 1995.[8][9]

Nevada Secretary of State

Heller was elected Secretary of State of Nevada in 1994, and was re-elected in 1998 and 2002, served in this capacity from 1995 to 2007; when he was elected to the United States House of Representatives.

As secretary, Heller made Nevada the first state in the nation to implement an auditable paper trail to electronic voting machines.[10]

U.S. House of Representatives

Heller as a representative



Heller decided to run for Congress in 2005 for Nevada's 2nd congressional district after ten-year incumbent Republican U.S. Congressman Jim Gibbons decided to run for governor. On August 15, 2006, he won the Republican primary with 36% of the vote. He narrowly defeated state Assemblywoman Sharron Angle by 421 votes. Angle received 35% of the vote and former state Assemblywoman Dawn Gibbons (incumbent's wife) received 25% of the vote.[11] In the general election, Heller defeated Democratic nominee and University of Nevada Regent Jill Derby 50%-45%. Heller lost Washoe County, home to Reno and by far the largest county in the district (it casts more than 70 percent of the district's vote). However, he won most of the rural areas of the district by margins of 2-to-1 or more, allowing him to win the district by 12,600 votes. Heller was almost certainly helped by the presence of Gibbons atop the ballot as he carried the 2nd by a landslide margin in his successful gubernatorial bid.[12]


Heller won the Republican primary again, this time defeating James W. Smack 86%-14%.[13] In a rematch, Heller defeated Derby in the general election, 52%-41%. This time he won every county in the district, except Clark County.[14]


In 2009, Heller had been rumored to be a candidate to challenge embattled Republican incumbent Governor Jim Gibbons or Democratic United States Senator Harry Reid in 2010.[15] He declined to run for governor or senator, and instead chose to run for re-election.

He was challenged in the Republican primary again. He won by a landslide, defeating Patrick J. Colletti 84%-16%.[16] He won re-election to a third term, defeating Nancy Price 63%-36%.[17]


During his tenure in the House, Heller was vice chairman of the Western Caucus, playing a leading role in advocating for issues that impact western U.S. states.[18][19] He also opposed the Troubled Asset Relief Program.[20]

Committee assignments

U.S. Senate

2012 election

In March 2011, Heller announced that he would run for the United States Senate to succeed John Ensign after Ensign announced his resignation.[20] He ran as the incumbent following his appointment to the seat on May 3, 2011 by Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval. In September 2012, Heller received an endorsement from the Filipino-American Families of America in Politics, a group of Filipino Americans in Las Vegas formed to advocate for families of World War II Filipino Veterans.[21]

He faced First District Congresswoman Shelley Berkley in the November election. In one of the closest races of the cycle, Heller won by 12,100 votes out of almost 900,000 cast. Ultimately, a 21,000-vote margin in Washoe County allowed Heller to win a full term.


Heller was appointed by Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval to the vacant seat created by the resignation of John Ensign. He assumed office upon his resignation from the U.S. House on May 9, 2011.[22]

On May 23, 2013, Heller introduced S. 1049 into the Senate.[23] The bill is an official companion measure to the Good Samaritan Search and Recovery Act of 2013 (H.R. 2166; 113th Congress), introduced in the House by Nevada Representative Joe Heck.[24] The bills would require the federal government to issue permits within 48 hours to volunteer search and rescue groups that would allow them to search federal lands. Heller argued that "the last thing families who have lost loved ones need is the federal government to stand in the way of recovering their remains."[25]

Heller campaigned to be elected Chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee for the 114th U.S. Congress, but was defeated by Mississippi Senator Roger Wicker on November 13, 2014.[26]

Government shutdown

In 2013, Heller was one of 18 Senators who voted against the bill to reopen the government during the United States government shutdown of 2013. Regarding the vote, Heller said: “I wanted to be able to support a deal, but this proposal makes no underlying structural changes that will prevent this exact same crisis from happening again in the very near future. Considering this legislation does nothing to place our nation on sound fiscal footing or cultivate a growth economy that will produce jobs in the long term, I cannot support it.”[27]

Health care

In May 2013, Heller introduced a bill to suspend $440 million in IRS funding to enforce Obamacare. In a statement, Heller said, "With the recent events related to the Internal Revenue Service, I feel it is necessary that both Congress and the Department of Health and Human Services look closely at the money given to the IRS through the health care law."[28]

Unemployment insurance

In April 2014, Heller led a successful effort to pass legislation in the Senate extending emergency unemployment benefits to 2 million Americans.[29]

Violence Against Women Act

Heller voted for reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act in 2012.[30]

Committee assignments

Heller is a member of the following committees:[31]

Political positions


Since being elected to federal office, Heller has voted for key pro-life initiatives.[32]


Heller opposed the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008 that created the Troubled Asset Relief Program[33] characterizing the bill as "a massive bailout of Wall Street."

Heller also opposed the Auto Industry Financing and Restructuring Act of 2008.[34]


Heller has voted in support of the development of domestic oil, gas and coal. He has also supported tax incentives for renewable energy. [35]

Health care

Heller voted against H.R. 3590 and H.R. 4872 the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010,[36] citing the bill's potential impact on taxes, health care costs and the national debt.[37]

During the debate prior to the federal healthcare law's passage, Heller led efforts to require two provisions be added to the federal health care law that would require:

Heller questioned the constitutionality of the law following its passage, and called on Nevada Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto to join a multi-state lawsuit challenging it.[40]

On January 19, 2011, Heller voted to repeal the federal healthcare law.[41][42]

Heller is the only person to vote for Paul Ryan's budget plan twice during one session of Congress. He voted for it when he served in the House and again in the Senate after he had been appointed.[43]


Part of Heller's 2012 campaign platform revolved around his stance on Israel and the nation's relationship with the United States. Heller advocates for American assistance to Israel so that the country will have the ability to defend itself and supports punishments for Iran's pursuit of weapons of mass destruction.[44] In 2011 Heller introduced the Jerusalem Embassy and Recognition Act of 2011, legislation that reaffirms the United States’ commitment to Israel to relocate the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.[45]

Labor unions

Heller opposes the Employee Free Choice Act, proposed legislation that would effectively eliminate secret ballots in union organizing elections and subject employers and employees to mandatory arbitration when negotiating union contracts.[46] In stating his objection to this proposed legislation, Heller said that it could cause the loss of 600,000 jobs within two years of enactment.

LGBT rights

In 2007 Heller voted against the Employment Non-discrimination Act that would have prohibited employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. However, in 2013 he changed his position, announcing his support for the bill.[47] He opposes same sex marriage.[48]

Minimum wage

Heller voted against the Fair Minimum Wage Act of 2007.[49] In April 2014, the United States Senate debated the Minimum Wage Fairness Act (S. 1737; 113th Congress). The bill would amend the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 (FLSA) to increase the federal minimum wage for employees to $10.10 per hour over the course of a two-year period.[50] The bill was strongly supported by President Barack Obama and many of the Democratic Senators, but strongly opposed by Republicans in the Senate and House.[51][52][53] Heller opposed the bill, arguing that Nevada already had a minimum wage higher than the federally mandated level and that he thought the minimum wage should be left up to the states. Heller said "I think there is a difference between North and South, East and West on what those minimum wages ought to be."[53]


Heller supports the initiative by President Barack Obama to normalize relations with Cuba, and was part of a bipartisan delegation to Havana.[54]

Personal life

A member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Heller and his wife Lynne have four children and two grandchildren.[55] Heller was a founding board member of the Boys and Girls Club of Western Nevada and the Western Nevada Community College Foundation. He is an advisory board member for Nevada's Foster Grandparent program.[56]

His son-in-law, Ed Ableser, was elected a Democrat to the Arizona State Senate in 2012.

Electoral history

United States Senate election in Nevada, 2012
Party Candidate Votes % ±
Republican Dean Heller (incumbent) 457,656 45.87% −9.53%
Democratic Shelley Berkley 446,080 44.71% +3.71%
Independent American David Lory VanDerBeek 48,792 4.89% +3.56%
None of These Candidates 44,277 4.54% +3.13%
Majority 12,034 1.20%
Turnout 997,805
Republican hold
United States Senate Republican primary election in Nevada, 2012
Party Candidate Votes % +%
Republican Dean Heller (incumbent) 88,958 86.28%
Republican Sherry Brooks 5,356 5.19%
None of These Candidates 3,358 3.26%
Republican Eddie "In Liberty" Hamilton 2,628 2.55%
Republican Richard Charles 2,295 2.23%
Republican Carlo "Nakusa" Poliak 512 0.50%
Nevada's 2nd congressional district election, 2010
Party Candidate Votes % +%
Republican Dean Heller (incumbent) 169,458 63.30%
Democratic Nancy Price 87,421 32.66%
Independent American Russell Best 10,829 4.05%
Nevada's 2nd congressional district Republican primary election, 2010
Party Candidate Votes % +%
Republican Dean Heller (incumbent) 72,728 83.70%
Republican Patrick Colletti 14,162 16.30%
Nevada's 2nd congressional district election, 2008
Party Candidate Votes % +%
Republican Dean Heller (incumbent) 170,620 51.84%
Democratic Jill Derby 136,320 41.42%
Independent American John Everhart 11,165 3.39%
Libertarian Sean Patrick Morse 5,730 1.74%
Green Craig Bergland 5,269 1.60%
Nevada's 2nd congressional district Republican primary election, 2008
Party Candidate Votes % +%
Republican Dean Heller (incumbent) 43,112 86.02%
Republican James Smack 7,009 13.98%
Nevada's 2nd congressional district election, 2006
Party Candidate Votes % +%
Republican Dean Heller 117,168 50.35%
Democratic Jill Derby 104,593 44.94%
Independent Daniel Rosen 5,524 2.37%
Independent American James Kroshus 5,439 2.34%
Nevada's 2nd congressional district Republican primary election, 2006
Party Candidate Votes % +%
Republican Dean Heller 24,770 35.90%
Republican Sharron Angle 24,349 35.29%
Republican Dawn Gibbons 17,317 25.10%
Republican Glenn Thomas 1,835 2.66%
Republican Richard Gilster 721 1.05%
Nevada Secretary of State election, 2002
Party Candidate Votes % +%
Republican Dean Heller (incumbent) 298,125 60.33%
Democratic William Hamma 124,655 25.23%
None of These Candidates 29,561 5.98%
Independent American Christopher Hansen 17,987 3.64%
Natural Law Lois Avery 14,552 2.94%
Green Paul Lenart 7,602 1.54%
Nevada Secretary of State election, 1998
Party Candidate Votes % +%
Republican Dean Heller (incumbent) 270,024 65.61%
None of These Candidates 51,763 12.58%
Independent American Mary Ann Dickens 42,893 10.42%
Natural Law Lois Avery 24,080 5.85%
Libertarian Robert Brost 22,798 5.54%
Nevada Secretary of State election, 1994
Party Candidate Votes % +%
Republican Dean Heller 204,041 54.60%
Democratic Tom Hickey 113,421 30.35%
Independent American Teresia Avila 31,131 8.33%
None of These Candidates 25,279 6.76%
Nevada Secretary of State Republican Primary election, 1994
Party Candidate Votes % +%
Republican Dean Heller 53,478 49.31%
Republican Patrick Matthew Fitzpatrick 28,967 26.71%
None of the above 26,011 23.98%
Nevada State Assembly District 40 election, 1992
Party Candidate Votes % +%
Republican Dean Heller (incumbent) 8,146 66.58%
Democratic Joe McKnight 3,463 28.24%
Libertarian Perry Nixdorf 653 5.33%
Nevada State Assembly District 40 election, 1990
Party Candidate Votes % +%
Republican Dean Heller 5,022 57.82%
Democratic Robin Williams-Auer 3,663 42.18%
Nevada State Assembly District 40 Republican Primary election, 1990
Party Candidate Votes % +%
Republican Dean Heller 2,196 67.30%
Republican Kay Bennett 1,067 32.70%


  1. Heller family genealogy site
  2. Jennifer Medina, Carl Hulse (April 22, 2011). "Resignation Has Nevada Sorting Out the Fallout".
  3. Bureau of Land Management (September 24, 2004). "Dean Heller to Make Special Women's Equality Day Presentation".
  4. University of Southern California (May 23, 2013). "The Honorable Dean Heller '85".
  5. "Greeks in the 113th Congress". North-American Interfraternity Conference. Retrieved 2 September 2013.
  6. 1 2 "NationalJournalAlmanac Rep. Dean Heller (R)". May 23, 2013.
  7. "Dean Heller U.S. Congress District 2", Nevada Appeal, October 16, 2008
  8. Nevada Department of Administration. "SECRETARY OF STATE: DEAN HELLER SECRETARY OF STATE DEAN HELLER 1995–2007".
  9. Steve Tetreault (April 27, 2011). "On voting records, Heller and Ensign differ only 'in areas of gray'". Las Vegas Review-Journal.
  10. Farhad Manjoo, "The downloading of the president '04", Salon, August 24, 2004
  11. "Our Campaigns - NV District 2- R Primary Race - Aug 15, 2006". Retrieved May 16, 2015.
  12. "Our Campaigns - NV - District 02 Race - Nov 07, 2006". Retrieved May 16, 2015.
  13. "Our Campaigns - NV - District 02 - R Primary Race - Aug 12, 2008". Retrieved May 16, 2015.
  14. "Our Campaigns - NV - District 02 Race - Nov 04, 2008". Retrieved May 16, 2015.
  15. Brendan Riley, "Congressman hedges on Senate bid", Associated Press, April 17, 2009
  16. "Our Campaigns - NV - District 2 - R Primary Race - Jun 08, 2010". Retrieved May 16, 2015.
  17. "Our Campaigns - NV - District 2 Race - Nov 02, 2010". Retrieved May 16, 2015.
  18. "Heller named vice chairman of Western Caucus". Reno Gazette-Journal. February 4, 2011. Retrieved February 14, 2011.
  19. "Heller named to policy seat in Western Caucus", Nevada Appeal, February 7, 2009
  20. 1 2 Blake, Aaron (March 15, 2011). "Dean Heller announces run for Senate in Nevada". The Washington Post.
  21. Dymphna Calica-La Putt (September 19, 2012). "For aid to Filipino WWII vets Heller get Fil-Am group's endorsement". Asian Journal. Retrieved October 2, 2012.
  22. "Official Congressional Biography". Biographical Directory of the United States Congress. Retrieved May 18, 2011.
  23. "S. 1049 - Summary". United States Congress. Retrieved 27 January 2014.
  24. "H.R. 2166 - Summary". United States Congress. Retrieved 27 January 2014.
  25. Kasperowicz, Pete (24 January 2014). "House to lift government hurdles to missing person searches". The Hill. Retrieved 27 January 2014.
  26. "Roger Wicker wins NRSC race". Politico. November 13, 2014. Retrieved November 13, 2014.
  27. Nevada's Dean Heller among minority of senators to oppose deal to reopen the government. Votes to end the government shutdown
  28. "Heller says IRS can't be trusted to oversee Obamacare". Las Vegas Sun. May 14, 2013. Retrieved October 18, 2013.
  29. Unemployment benefit bill led by Nevada’s Dean Heller passes Senate, Las Vegas Sun, April 7, 2014, retrieved April 12, 2014
  30. Bendery, Jennifer (April 26, 2012). "Violence Against Women Act Reauthorization Overwhelmingly Passes Senate". Huffington Post.
  31. "U.S. Senate: Committee Assignments". May 15, 2015. Retrieved May 16, 2015.
  32. "Project Vote Smart – Senator Dean Heller – Voting Record". Vote Smart. Project Vote Smart. Retrieved September 4, 2011.
  33. Deborah Barfield Berry, "Heller Votes Against Bailout", Reno Gazette Journal, October 4, 2008
  34. Heller Statement on Auto Bailout, Congressman Heller – U.S. House of Representatives, December 10, 2008
  35. Health care reform: How the House voted, Associated Press, March 21, 2010
  36. "Heller Statement on Healthcare Legislation" (Press release). Dean Heller. March 21, 2010.
  37. "Health care for illegals", Las Vegas Review-Journal, July 24, 2009, retrieved March 10, 2011
  38. "Heller says Congress should join any federal health plan", Nevada Appeal, July 17, 2009, retrieved March 10, 2011
  39. U.S. Rep. Dean Heller Urges Nevada AG to Sue Over Health Reform, Associated Press, March 23, 2010, retrieved March 10, 2011
  40. Budoff Brown, Carrie (January 19, 2011), "House passes health law repeal", Politico, retrieved March 10, 2011
  41. "Final Vote Results For Roll Call 14". Clerk of the United States House of Representatives. January 19, 2011. Retrieved March 10, 2011.
  42. "Project Vote Smart: Dean Heller's voting record". Vote Smart. Project Vote Smart. Retrieved September 6, 2011.
  43. "Israel". Retrieved May 16, 2015.
  44. "Heller Seeks Permanent U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem". Retrieved May 16, 2015.
  45. Heller Letter to Pelosi: Card Check Bill Will Cost Jobs, Congressman Heller – U.S. House of Representatives, March 12, 2009
  46. "Heller Will Provide 60th Vote for ENDA, but House Action Is Unlikely (Updated)". The World's Greatest Deliberative Body. Retrieved May 16, 2015.
  47. Dean Heller on the Issues: Civil Rights
  48. "Project Vote Smart – Dean Heller – Voting Record". Vote Smart. Project Vote Smart. Retrieved September 6, 2011.
  49. "S. 1737 - Summary". United States Congress. Retrieved 8 April 2014.
  50. Sink, Justin (2 April 2014). "Obama: Congress has 'clear choice' on minimum wage". The Hill. Retrieved 9 April 2014.
  51. Bolton, Alexander (8 April 2014). "Reid punts on minimum-wage hike". The Hill. Retrieved 9 April 2014.
  52. 1 2 Bolton, Alexander (4 April 2014). "Centrist Republicans cool to minimum wage hike compromise". The Hill. Retrieved 9 April 2014.
  53. Reuters, cuba
  54. "Dean Heller Biography". Dean Heller Senate. Retrieved 18 November 2014.
  55. United States Government Printing Office (May 23, 2013). "NEVADA 110th Congress" (PDF).

Further reading

Political offices
Preceded by
Cheryl Lau
Secretary of State of Nevada
Succeeded by
Ross Miller
United States House of Representatives
Preceded by
Jim Gibbons
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Nevada's 2nd congressional district

Succeeded by
Mark Amodei
Party political offices
Preceded by
John Ensign
Republican nominee for U.S. Senator from Nevada
(Class 1)

Most recent
United States Senate
Preceded by
John Ensign
United States Senator (Class 1) from Nevada
Served alongside: Harry Reid, Catherine Cortez Masto (elect)
United States order of precedence (ceremonial)
Preceded by
Kelly Ayotte
United States Senators by seniority
Succeeded by
Brian Schatz
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