GOP’s Top Choice to Challenge Harry Reid Decides He Won’t Run

By Kevin Freking | August 12, 2009 | 5:27 AM EDT
Washington (AP) - The GOP's top choice to take on Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid next year has told party officials he's decided against a run for the Senate.
Rep. Dean Heller, R-Nev., called Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, to say he had ruled out a Senate run, Amber Wilkerson, a spokeswoman for the National Republican Senatorial Committee, said Tuesday. Heller will seek to retain what officials consider to be a safe seat representing a largely Republican district.
Heller told a Reno radio station that he was worried about missing time with his four children.
"There are going to be those who say I made a poor political decision here," Heller told KKOH Radio. "The decision was personal, not political."
Heller is serving his second term as a representative for Nevada's largely rural 2nd Congressional District. He earlier demonstrated his ability to win statewide election by serving three terms as Nevada's secretary of state.
In a statement, Reid said Heller "is and will continue to be in an important position for Nevada."
"Our families have been friends for many years, and regardless of his decision, that wouldn't have changed," he said.
Heller, unopposed for the seat in Congress after an announced Democratic challenger ended her bid, raised $166,442 last quarter. He reported having $255,000 cash on hand.
He would have had a lot of catching up to do to get anywhere close to Reid. The Democratic senator has raised more than $7 million as he seeks re-election to a fifth term and has a goal of raising $25 million. Still, Reid's low poll ratings back home make GOP leaders think he's vulnerable.
Wilkerson said GOP leaders are still confident they'll field a winning Republican challenger and that the race will ultimately be a referendum on Reid.
Associated Press writer Scott Sonner in Reno, Nev., contributed to this report.
Rep. Dean Heller, R-Nev., told a Reno radio station that he was worried about missing time with his four children.