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Breeden beats Heck by small margin

Updated Tuesday, Nov. 4, 2008 | 10:52 p.m.

General Election Results

Senate races

Political upstart Shirley Breeden survived a late run by incumbent state Sen. Joe Heck, R-Henderson, to unseat him. She won by just 801 votes.

In the final tally, Breeden secured 46.6 percent of the vote to Heck's 45.8 percent.

Breeden's victory seriously wounds any ambitions Heck, a doctor and reservist has of higher office. Heck was widely viewed as a potential opponent to Sen. Harry Reid or a contender for governor in two years if he had could best Breeden.

While in Iraq last spring, political commentator Jon Ralston praised Heck for bringing “common sense to the table by advocating for annual inspections of surgery centers” in the aftermath of the Hepatitis outbreak at the Endoscopy Center of Southern Nevada “and for having a rational roundtable discussion of the issues raised by the crisis.”

The race was highly competitive and increasingly negative.

Breeden’s candidacy was buoyed by a massive advertising campaign undertaken by state Democrats and unions to bounce Heck and state Sen. Bob Beers from the body. Some of the Democrats’ ads on women’s health issues were misleading.

The Sun’s Sam Skolnik, who observed an October debate between Heck and Beers, reported that Heck alleged that Breeden orchestrated the “smear campaign” against him. Breeden implied that Heck didn’t care about preventive care.

Breeden first considered a run for a state Assembly seat in Henderson, after visiting her daughter in Carson City in 2006. Her daughter, Jennifer, worked for the state Legislature at the time. But party leaders, desperate for a challenger to Heck, convinced her to seek a state Senate seat instead.

The 52-year-old retired school administrator is exceedingly likable – she stresses that her relatability as a mother and grandmother appeals to voters – but did not present much of a platform.

When asked what her credentials were in a September interview, Breeden said: “We all know, as a mom, you have to juggle 90 different things. You have to balance your budget. Be a problem solver, multitask and bring common sense into everything you decide to do.”

Tonight at the Republican’s party at the Palazzo, he called Woodbury a mentor. “It will be a learning and growing experience to fill shoes like that, but I feel comfortable I've got some good experience,” he said.

Sun reporter Amanda Finnegan contributed to this report.

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