Secretary of State Dean Heller announced Wednesday he'll run for the congressional seat held by Jim Gibbons.
Gibbons hasn't formally announced plans to seek the governor's office but Heller pointed out that his wife, Dawn, effectively threw her own name into the hat to replace her husband in Congressional District 2.
"When his wife jumped into the race, it was a very clear message that Jim's running for governor," said Heller.
Heller, 44, is in his third term as Secretary of State. Before that, he served two terms representing Carson City in the Nevada Assembly and worked as deputy treasurer under Ken Santor.
He said his biggest challenge will be raising the money for a congressional campaign since he hasn't really needed to conduct a major fund-raising effort in any of his previous races. That, he said, was a key factor in his early announcement for the office.
But he started off with what appears to be solid support from fellow Republicans Gov. Kenny Guinn and Attorney General Brian Sandoval - both of whom said Heller would be an excellent choice to follow Gibbons.
"I am confident Dean could represent Nevada with the same distinction in Washington, D.C.," said Guinn.
"I believe Dean Heller will make an excellent congressman for the people of Nevada," said Sandoval. But he added he can't take any official position on the race because of his pending nomination to a federal district judgeship.
Heller said Gibbons has served Nevadans with distinction and honor as a "conservative voice in Washington, D.C."
"I want to continue that effort in our nation's capital by working to make our federal government more accountable and more efficient with our hard-earned tax dollars."
Heller said his accomplishments in the Secretary of State's office prove him well qualified to do so. He pointed to his role in streamlining and strengthening business processes.
"We're the only state agency in the country that offers a money-back guarantee," he said pointing to his promise to complete paperwork registering a business in Nevada within 10 working days or return the company's filing fees.
And he pointed to his national role in the debate over electronic voting machines. At Heller's direction, Nevada was the first state to demand all voting be by touch-screen electronic machines, but that those machines all have the ability to produce a paper trail printout of how each Nevadan voted.
He said he thinks the efficiency of the Secretary of State's office has improved dramatically under his leadership and that he would bring the same businesslike approach to Congress.
Heller said his participation in the debates over the Help America Vote Act and the nationwide move toward electronic voting and election reform spurred his interest in debates over national issues such as education.
He said he supports the No Child Left Behind education law but will withhold judgment on privatizing Social Security at this point because "I have a lot of research to do to get prepared."
Heller said he expects a "wide open" primary race with several candidates in addition to himself and Dawn Gibbons.
He said he has tested the financial waters at least preliminarily and already has commitments for upwards of $300,000 but estimated the primary alone could cost $1 million or more.
Among the other potential candidates, he said, are Treasurer Brian Krolicki and Controller Kathy Augustine. But he said the district could also attract "a wealthy candidate who can spend the money to run in the primary."
He said the key race will be among Republican contenders since the GOP has a 30,000 vote registration advantage in Congressional District 2, which includes all of Northern and rural Nevada plus a slice of Clark County.
Heller said if elected, he and his wife, Lynn, will move the family to Washington, D.C.
"I will not be an absentee father," said Heller who has four children ranging from 9 to 19. "We will move back there together and be the family we have been in Carson City."
Heller has lived in Carson City since he was 9 months old. His father, Jack, ran a garage in town for years and, at one point, ran unsuccessfully for state Senate.
Contact reporter Geoff Dornan at email@example.com or 687-8750.