Thursday, April 23, 2015 | 2 a.m.
Under building pressure from national and state Republicans, Rep. Joe Heck is agreeing to take a look at running for the open U.S. Senate seat in Nevada.
"People want to talk to me about it," the Henderson Republican said Wednesday, "so we're meeting with people and talking about it."
That Heck is even entertaining the idea of running for the seat five-term Sen. Harry Reid is vacating raises GOP politicos' hopes. Heck has sounded like a broken record all year, telling allies behind closed doors and reporters on record that he is not considering running for the Senate.
But Heck is a popular choice for Nevada Republicans to challenge Reid's chosen successor, former Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto.
He's won a swing district three times, he's a proven fundraiser with almost $1 million in his campaign account, and he's one of the few Nevada Republicans who could clear the field and help the party avoid a messy primary like in 2010, insiders say.
Even before Reid announced his retirement in late March, there was a steady drumbeat to recruit the doctor and Iraq War veteran. Heck started getting calls to challenge the Democratic Senate leader hours after he was handily re-elected to represent Nevada's third congressional district, which includes the Las Vegas suburbs.
But Heck rebuffed those calls.
"Everyone asks me to run, and I tell them my reasons" why he doesn't want to, Heck said in February.
Chief among those: He has a son who's about to go to college, late last year the Senate confirmed him as a general in the U.S. Army Reserve, and he's chairman of two key subcommittees in the House that play vital roles in reshaping the military's future.
Heck likes his role in the House of Representatives and said Wednesday that "No" is still his default answer. But he is doing his "due diligence" to look at the viability of the race.
"[Due diligence] means meeting with folks who are asking me the question and getting what their opinion is and discussing it with my family," Heck said, adding he's always heard those people out.
Nationally, the Nevada Senate race could help decide which party controls the Senate. Heck is getting encouragement from his fellow lawmakers in the House and in the Senate to consider making a go at it.
"We'd love to have Joe run, if Joe comes to that conclusion," said Sen. Dean Heller, a Nevada Republican who holds a leadership role in the National Republican Senatorial Committee, which recruits candidates. "I'm not sure he's there yet. But boy, if Joe had that in mind, there'd be a lot of support for him."
"I hope he does [decide to run]," said Rep. Mark Amodei, a Northern Nevada Republican who had decided not to compete for the seat. "Because I think he'd be a strong candidate."
Heck supporters say he'll make the decision based on where he can have the most impact.
He's not the only member of Nevada's congressional delegation eying the rare open Senate seat.
Rep. Dina Titus, a Las Vegas Democrat who lost to Heck in 2010, is weighing entering the race. She said last week she would make her decision soon.
Back home in Nevada, Republican favorite Gov. Brian Sandoval has indicated he's not interested in running for the seat whether Reid is in it or not.
Other Nevada Republicans contemplating a run for the seat include former assemblywoman and former Assembly Minority Leader Heidi Gansert, state Senate Majority Leader Michael Roberson, Lt. Gov. Mark Hutchison and former Lt. Gov. Brian Krolicki. Las Vegas City Councilman Bob Beers, a long shot in the race, has already announced he's running.