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Dean Heller
Dean Heller, official portrait, 114th Congress.jpg
United States Senator
from Nevada
In office
May 9, 2011 – January 3, 2019
Preceded by John Ensign
Succeeded by Jacky Rosen
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
from the 40th district
In office
November 1990 – November 1994
Succeeded by Thomas Fettic
Personal details
Dean Arthur Heller

(1960-05-10) May 10, 1960 (age 63)
Castro Valley, California, U.S.
Political party Republican
Spouse(s) Lynne Heller
Children 4
Education University of Southern California (BBA)

Dean Arthur Heller (born May 10, 1960) is an American businessman and politician who served as a United States senator for Nevada from 2011 to 2019. A member of the Republican Party, he served as the 15th secretary of state of Nevada from 1995 to 2007 and U.S. representative for NV's 2nd congressional district from 2007 to 2011. He was appointed to the U.S. Senate by Governor Brian Sandoval and elected to a full term in the 2012 election. Heller unsuccessfully ran for a second term in 2018, losing to Democrat Jacky Rosen. He was an unsuccessful candidate for governor of Nevada in 2022.

Early life and education

Heller was born in Castro Valley, California, to Janet (née MacNelly) and Charles Alfred "Jack" Heller, a mechanic and stock car driver. moved to Carson City, Nevada with his family when he was nine months old. He has five siblings.

He graduated from Carson High School in 1978, and was accepted into the University of Southern California, where he earned his BBA, specializing in finance and securities analysis, from the USC Marshall School of Business in 1985. At USC, Heller joined the Sigma Nu social fraternity.

Early career

Nevada Assembly

Heller served two terms in the Nevada Assembly from 1990 to 1994. He represented Carson City, the capital of Nevada. During his time in the Nevada Assembly, Heller worked as a senior commercial banking consultant for Bank of America (1990–1995).

Nevada secretary of state

Heller was elected secretary of state of Nevada in 1994 and reelected in 1998 and 2002, serving from 1995 to 2007, when he was elected to the United States House of Representatives. As Secretary of State, Heller made Nevada the first state in the nation to implement an auditable paper trail to electronic voting machines.

U.S. House of Representatives



Heller decided to run for the U.S. House of Representatives in 2005 in Nevada's 2nd congressional district, after ten-year incumbent Republican Jim Gibbons decided to run for Governor of Nevada. 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 (wife of the incumbent) received 25% of the vote.

In the general election, Heller defeated Democratic nominee and University of Nevada Regent Jill Derby, by a 49% to 46% margin. Derby carried Washoe County, home to Reno and the largest county in the district. However, Heller ran up enough of a margin in the rest of the district to win. He was likely helped by Gibbons' presence atop the ticket; Gibbons carried his former district in a landslide in his successful run for governor. It was only the third close race in the district since its creation in 1983.


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


In 2009, Heller was rumored to be a candidate to challenge embattled incumbent Republican Governor Jim Gibbons or Democratic United States Senator Harry Reid in 2010. He declined to run for Nevada Governor or U.S. Senator and instead chose to run for reelection.

He was challenged in the Republican primary again. He defeated Patrick J. Colletti 84%–16%. He won reelection to a third term, defeating Nancy Price 63%–36%.


Dean Heller, Official Portrait, 112th Congress (Rep)
Heller during the
112th Congress

During his tenure, Heller was Vice Chairman of the Congressional Western Caucus, playing a leading role in advocating for issues that impact western U.S. states. He opposed the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP).

Committee assignments

U.S. Senate



In March 2011, after U.S. Senator John Ensign announced his resignation, Heller declared that he would run for the United States Senate in 2012 to succeed him. Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval then appointed Heller to the U.S. Senate to fill the vacancy created by Ensign's resignation. Heller took office on May 9, 2011.

In his bid for a full Senate term, Heller faced Nevada's 1st congressional district U.S. Representative Shelley Berkley in November 2012. Heller defeated Berkley, 45.9% to 44.7%.


In August 2017, Las Vegas businessman Danny Tarkanian, a strong supporter of President Donald Trump, announced that he would mount a primary challenge to Heller. Tarkanian stated that "we are never going to make America great again unless we have Senators in office that fully support President Trump and his America-First agenda" and explained that he wanted to "repeal Obamacare and end illegal immigration."

In September 2017, NBC News reported that Heller was "widely considered the most endangered Senator up for reelection in next year's midterm cycle." He was described as facing "substantial opposition from both conservatives within his own party and a general electorate trending Democratic" and as having "a difficult relationship with President Donald Trump." At a fundraiser, Nevada Republicans were supportive of Trump but critical of Heller.

On February 1, 2018, President Trump told Republican National Committee members that he would travel to Nevada to campaign for Heller in a competitive Republican primary. In March 2018, Trump persuaded Tarkanian to drop his challenge to Heller. Tarkanian said that he would instead run for the United States House of Representatives in Nevada's 3rd congressional district with Trump's full support and the incumbent Democrat Jacky Rosen retiring to challenge Heller.

In the November 2018 general election, Heller was defeated by Democratic challenger Jacky Rosen. Rosen received 50% of the vote to Heller's 45%, with a variety of third party candidates receiving 5% of the total vote. While Heller carried 15 of Nevada's 17 county-level jurisdictions, Rosen carried the two largest, Clark (home to Las Vegas) and Washoe (home to Reno). Ultimately, Heller could not overcome a 92,000-vote deficit in Clark County.


Dean Heller, Official Senate Portrait, 112th Congress
Official portrait of Senator Dean Heller, 113th United States Congress

On May 23, 2013, Heller introduced S. 1049 into the U.S. Senate. 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. 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."

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."

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.

Committee assignments

Heller was a member of the following committees:

  • Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs
    • Subcommittee on Economic Policy (Chair)
    • Subcommittee on Housing, Transportation, and Community Development
    • Subcommittee on Financial Institutions and Consumer Protection
  • Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation
  • Committee on Finance
    • Subcommittee on Taxation and IRS Oversight
    • Subcommittee on Health Care
    • Subcommittee on Social Security, Pensions, and Family Policy (Chair)
  • Committee on Veterans' Affairs

Post-Senate activities

On September 23, 2021, Heller announced his candidacy for Governor of Nevada on the Republican ticket in the 2022 primary race. During his campaign, he repeatedly refused to recognize Joe Biden winning the 2020 presidential election, calling the election a "mess".

Personal life

A member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, he and his wife Lynne have four children and two grandchildren. His son-in-law, Ed Ableser, served for nearly ten years as a Democratic member of the Arizona Legislature.

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.

Heller's wife Lynne competed on the original Family Feud game show in 1985 under the Brombach family name along with her father, sister and two other relatives. They had a winning streak that lasted through several episodes before losing to the Peterson family. The Brombachs finished with cash winnings totaling $18,344.

Electoral history

Nevada's 2nd congressional district election, 2008
Party Candidate Votes %
Republican Dean Heller (incumbent) 170,771 51.82
Democratic Jill Derby 136,548 41.44
Independent American John Everhart 11,179 3.39
Libertarian Sean Patrick Morse 5,740 1.74
Green Craig Bergland 5,282 1.60
Total votes 329,520 100.00
Republican hold
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
Total votes 267,708 100.00
Republican hold
Republican primary results
Party Candidate Votes %
Republican Dean Heller (incumbent) 88,958 86.3
Republican Sherry Brooks 5,356 5.2
None of These Candidates 3,358 3.3
Republican Eddie "In Liberty" Hamilton 2,628 2.6
Republican Richard Charles 2,295 2.2
Republican Carlo "Nakusa" Poliak 512 0.5
Total votes 103,107 100
United States Senate election in Nevada, 2012
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Republican Dean Heller (incumbent) 457,656 45.87% -9.49%
Democratic Shelley Berkley 446,080 44.71% +3.72%
Independent American David Lory VanDerBeek 48,792 4.89% +3.56%
N/A None of These Candidates 45,277 4.54% +3.13%
Total votes 997,805 100.0% N/A
Republican hold
Republican primary results, Nevada 2018
Party Candidate Votes %
Republican Dean Heller (incumbent) 99,509 69.97%
Republican Tom Heck 26,296 18.49%
Republican None of These Candidates 5,978 4.20%
Republican Sherry Brooks 5,145 3.62%
Republican Sarah Gazala 4,011 2.82%
Republican Vic Harrell 1,282 0.90%
Total votes 142,221 100%
United States Senate election in Nevada, 2018
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Democratic Jacky Rosen 490,071 50.41% +5.70%
Republican Dean Heller (incumbent) 441,202 45.38% -0.49%
N/A None of These Candidates 15,303 1.57% -2.97%
Independent Barry Michaels 9,269 0.95% N/A
Libertarian Tim Hagan 9,196 0.95% N/A
Independent American Kamau Bakari 7,091 0.73% -4.16%
Total votes 972,132 100% N/A
Democratic gain from Republican

See also

Kids robot.svg In Spanish: Dean Heller para niños

Nevada gubernatorial Republican primary, 2022
Party Candidate Votes %
Republican Joe Lombardo 77,319 38.3%
Republican Joey Gilbert 54,676 27.1%
Republican Dean Heller 28,510 14.1%
Republican John Jay Lee 16,160 8.0%
Republican Guy Nohra 7,364 3.6%
Republican Fred J. Simon 5,825 2.9%
Republican Thomas Heck 3,845 1.9%
style="background-color:#FFFFFF;" width=10px | ; width: 2px;" | None of These Candidates 3,635 1.8%
Republican Eddie Hamilton 1,160 0.6%
Republican Amber Whitley 1,106 0.5%
Republican William Walls 653 0.3%
Republican Gary Evertsen 497 0.3%
Republican Seven Achilles Evans 424 0.2%
Republican Edward O'Brien 397 0.2%
Republican Barak Zilberberg 308 0.1%
Republican Stanleigh Lusak 208 0.1%
Total votes 202,087 100%
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