Y ELIZABETH BEWLEY â€¢ GANNETT WASHINGTON BUREAU
WASHINGTON – Republican Rep. Dean Heller announced today he will run for the U.S. Senate seat held by Republican John Ensign, who announced last week that he would not seek re-election.
In a statement, Heller said he is running for Senate because it is “incumbent upon us to effect change in difficult times to create a better future.”
He said that “poor decisions in Washington” are affecting his friends, neighbors and family members in Nevada.
“As families across Nevada struggle to pay their bills and fight to keep their homes, government spending has grown exponentially. This must end if we are going to turn this economy around,” Heller said.
Heller has a coveted seat on the powerful Ways and Means Committee and counts House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, among his closest friends in Congress. Boehner said he speaks with Heller often and sees him playing an important role in “getting Americans back to work.”
He first announced his candidacy in an e-mail to supporters, emphasizing his opposition to the 2008 bank bailouts and his commitment to ending President Barack Obama’s “big-government, job-killing agenda.”
Heller had been considering entering the race even before the announcement by Ensign, who admitted to having an extramarital affair with a staffer in 2009. A poll released Jan. 11 by Public Policy Polling showed the former Nevada secretary of state beating Ensign in a GOP primary, 52 percent to 34 percent.
In a Republican primary, Heller may face Sharron Angle, who lost to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid in November and is rumored to be interested in a 2012 bid. Rep. Shelley Berkley of Las Vegas is expected to seek the Democratic nomination and is considered a formidable candidate.
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