Dean Heller was born in Castro Valley, Calif., and grew up in Carson City, Nev., where he now resides. He is the son of famed stock car driver Jack "Blackjack" Heller. He earned a bachelor's degree in business administration from the University of Southern California.
Heller worked as an institutional stockbroker and as a broker-trader on the Pacific Stock Exchange before entering Nevada politics.
He was elected to the state Assembly in 1990 and served two terms before he ran for secretary of state, a position he held for 12 years.
Heller was elected to the U.S. House in 2006. In 2011, he was appointed to the U.S. Senate by Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval to replace John Ensign, who resigned amid an ethics investigation involving an affair with a former staffer.
Heller and his wife, Lynne, have four children.
Dean Heller was appointed to the U.S. Senate in 2011 by Nevada Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval to replace John Ensign who resigned amid an ethics investigation involving his affair with a former staffer. Heller had been serving his third term in the U.S. House, representing Nevada's 2nd District. In 2012, he will face off against Democratic Rep. Shelley Berkley, in what will be a highly contentious race.
Both Heller and Berkley were evenly matched in campaign fundraising, each reporting about $4 million on hand in midsummer 2012.
In 2010 Heller was courted by Republican Party leaders to challenge Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. But Heller refused, opting instead to seek re-election to the House. He cited in part the sex scandal that caused the eventual downfall of Ensign, saying he would have needed Ensign's help to defeat the powerful but vulnerable Reid, who won over Sharron Angle. In 2012, Heller still faces the Reid political machine, which has assisted the Berkley campaign in a race that could decide control of the Senate come November.
But Reid's behind-the-scenes string pulling — he lent part of his 2010 campaign staff to Berkley's campaign — was met head-on by Heller, who said the race was as much against Reid and Democrats as it was Berkley. "It's reasonable to make the argument that I have two opponents, yes: Shelley Berkley and Harry Reid," Heller said.
Heller locked horns with Reid in 2012 over Reid's recommendation of Clark County District Court Judge Elissa Cadish for a federal judgeship in Las Vegas. Cadish received a nomination by President Barack Obama, but Heller questioned her position on the Second Amendment and blocked her from receiving a hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Heller opposes the 2010 health care reform bill, arguing it amounted to government intrusion that would limit health care access, harm small businesses and cut benefits to seniors. After the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the law as constitutional in June 2012, Heller pledged to work for its repeal.
Heller also opposes the DREAM Act, a Democratic effort that seeks to create a pathway toward citizenship for some illegal immigrants who came to the United States as children. He said he supports improved border security and the construction of a fence or other physical barrier, and that businesses that knowingly hire illegal immigrants should be fined.
With Latinos making up about one-fourth of Nevada's population, Heller's stance on immigration is a key issue in the 2012 election.
In a 2012 campaign ad, Heller has pushed his "no budget, no pay" legislation that would require Congress to pass a budget in order to receive their salaries. He supports a balanced budget amendment and reforming the tax code.
Before he went to Washington, Heller was a popular secretary of state known for his moderate views. He nearly lost his first House bid in 2006 against tea-party favorite Sharron Angle, who portrayed him as weak on conservative issues.
Committee Assignments: Special Aging; Commerce, Science, and Transportation; Energy and Natural Resources
American Conservative Union Rating: 92
Americans for Democratic Action Rating: Not rated
Dean Heller is not up for re-election in 2014.
(Last updated by The Associated Press on June 16, 2014.)