Saturday, September 22, 2007

Dean Heller in Pahrump, NV

Photo: by Mark Waite, Pahrump Valley Times. Congressman Dean Heller, left, talks to Nye County Commission Chairman Gary Hollis at the fundraising dinner for the Nye County Republican Party Central Committee at the Pahrump Nugget Saturday night. Bob Swadell, a Pahrump lobbyist, can be seen walking by in the background.

U.S. Rep. Dean Heller, R-Nev., concedes he hasn't acquired much clout since taking office as the representative for Nevada's 2nd District in January. [Mark Waite, Pahrump Valley Times]

Even at the fundraising dinner for the Nye County Republican Party Central Committee at the Pahrump Nugget Events Center Saturday night, Heller arrived late and sat in the audience while his predecessor, Jim Gibbons, now governor of Nevada, was front and center as the keynote speaker.

"They're pushing me around because I'm a freshman in the minority (party), but I'll keep pushing back," Heller said of his fellow congressmen.

Heller hasn't been totally a stealth candidate in the media in the eight months since his inauguration. He has emerged as a staunch supporter of the president's Iraq policy, but the freshman lawmaker has also sponsored a few bills.

Heller said he introduced two bills that concern Northern Nevada. One would allow the U.S. Bureau of Land Management to deed property to Reno for economic development. Another involves a settlement with an Indian tribe in northern Humboldt and Elko counties.

But the bill on which Heller said he's been working the hardest involves Southern Nevada.

It deals with the Colorado River endangered species program. The bill would set up a 50-year program allocating 7,500 acre feet of water per year to protect 24 different species along the river, Heller said.

"The key is it is a 50-year program that would allocate water to Arizona, Nevada and California so that Las Vegas knows how much water they're going to have over the next 50 years," Heller said. "If you have stability in Clark County, there will be less need for water out of the eastern part of the state."

The former Nevada secretary of state also inserted amendments into a bill introduced to regulate voting machines. Heller said Nevada was the only state that established a paper trail on its electronic voting machines, avoiding the lawsuits filed against other states. But those steps could be erased by this new law, he said.

"It would make it nearly impossible to have early voting based on the way they want to do it," Heller said. The bill would audit electronic voting results by precinct instead of by the machine itself, he said. Currently people vote at precinct locations only on election day.

One of his amendments would exempt Nevada from the requirements of the bill, the other would mandate that instructions on the electronic voting machines be printed in English only, Heller said.

President Bush's speech on Iraq last week has aroused controversy, calling for a much slower withdrawal of troops than many Democrats would like. Heller continues to support Gen. David Petraeus' view of what the commander believes is needed to fight the war in Iraq. But Heller conceded the reality of Washington politics has colored the debate.

"Unfortunately, what I have found out in eight months in Congress, it's all a game of oneupmanship, and unfortunately this war in Iraq is part of that game ... Just about a month ago, (Republican Virginia Sen. John) Warner said we have to pull 1,000 troops out by the end of the year to send a message to the Iraqi people that it's time to get out. Democrats were praising that.

"Now the president gives a speech and says we want 30,000 out, and that's not good enough. A month ago 1,000 is great, but now 30,000 is not enough."

Heller added, "That's unfortunate because both sides need to come together. Now I'm thrilled we're going to have troops home. Would I love to have more? Absolutely I'd love to have more. But right now Petraeus believes this is the number he wants."

However, Heller said optimistically, Petraeus' speech to Congress and President Bush's speech to the nation following that "is the beginning of the end game" on Iraq.

Now that you've read all that, read all this about Heller:

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