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Heller calls Biden ‘illegitimate’ president; vows to repeal Commerce Tax ‘day one’

Michelle Rindels
Michelle Rindels
Daniel J. Clark
Daniel J. Clark
Election 2022
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Former Sen. Dean Heller says he believes Joe Biden is an illegitimate president, escalating his rhetoric beyond his position from earlier in his gubernatorial campaign, when he repeatedly refused to say who he believed was president.

Las Vegas Review-Journal reporter Blake Apgar tweeted on Tuesday that Heller described Biden as illegitimate. Asked for confirmation and what makes Heller believe that, aide Jack Finn told The Nevada Independent that "Dean said that 71% of Republicans in Nevada believe Biden is an illegitimate President and that he is part of that 71%."

Finn did not respond to a request for further clarification, including whether Heller believes there was widespread voter fraud in the 2020 election to the extent that it flipped the results of the presidential contest. Election officials, including Republican Secretary of State Barbara Cegavske, have said there is no evidence of widespread voter fraud in that election, much less to an extent that could tip the results.

Former U.S. Senator and gubernatorial hopeful Dean Heller speaks during a meeting of the Nevada Republican Club at the Ahern Hotel on Tuesday, Feb. 1, 2022. (Daniel Clark/The Nevada Independent)

During a speech Tuesday at a Las Vegas luncheon organized by the Nevada Republican Club, Heller also promised to repeal Nevada’s Commerce Tax on day one if elected governor. He called tax on large businesses, which was passed by a GOP-led Legislature in 2015 and signed by Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval, the “biggest black mark on the Republican Party in the last 20, 25 years.”

It was one of the elements Heller described when outlining “bold actions that I'm willing to take … as your next governor.” He also promised to implement constitutional carry, or the right to carry a concealed gun without a permit, and banning critical race theory and any derivatives of it. 

Though laws can be repealed through voter referendums or acts of the Legislature, it does not appear there is a way for a governor to unilaterally repeal a law such as the Commerce Tax.

Asked about what mechanism Heller would use, Finn said “Once he is sworn in as Governor, he will consult with his legal team to explore all available options. Bottom line, he’s eager to have that fight.”

Heller also promised attendees that “I will be your backup plan” if two new proposed ballot measures — one requiring voter ID and the other rolling back widespread mail voting — fail to qualify. He repeated a promise to enact voter ID by executive order.

Heller’s speech pushed back on what he characterized as the media declaring the race to be over based on 2021 fundraising totals. Heller, who spent three decades in Nevada politics before losing re-election in 2018 to Sen. Jacky Rosen, last year raised about one-fifth what primary rival and Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo did, and about one-seventh of what Gov. Steve Sisolak did, although those two opponents have been formally campaigning for a longer period of time.

A new Nevada Independent/OH Predictive Insights poll published Tuesday shows Heller has 9 percent support among Republican primary voters, compared to Lombardo’s 28 percent. 

Former U.S. Senator and gubernatorial hopeful Dean Heller says the Pledge of Allegiance during a meeting of the Nevada Republican Club at the Ahern Hotel on Tuesday, Feb. 1, 2022. (Daniel Clark/The Nevada Independent)

After once declaring he was “99 percent” against Donald Trump, Heller changed his tune since the 2016 election and affirmed to the Republican club on Tuesday that he would support a repeat Trump presidential bid in 2024. 

Heller opined that Trump would likely run again, but noted three potential exceptions: that the former president is “no spring chicken” and could face health issues; that Trump could sense that the Republican Party is not behind him, and that the New York attorney general might come down with an indictment against him.

“By the way, I don't think that stops him. I think he would consider that a badge of honor that they came after him,” Heller said.

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