Gov. Brian Sandoval on Tuesday took himself out of the running for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by retiring Harry Reid.
The popular Republican governor was considered by far the strongest contender for the office if he chose to run in 2016.
But it was widely thought he would decline to do so for a variety of reasons including his family.
In a statement issued by his campaign staff, Sandoval said despite the urging of numerous people including Sen. Dean Heller, he will not run next year. He didn’t comment on future aspirations outside the governor’s office.
“I have said many times that it is an honor and a privilege to serve as Nevada’s chief executive and that I love my job,” Sandoval said. “My heart is in my responsibilities as governor and continuing to build the new Nevada. My undivided attention must be devoted to being the best governor, husband and father I can be.”
He said he was proud of what he and his administration have accomplished — especially the education programs approved by the 2015 Legislature. Sandoval said he’s looking forward to the remaining three-plus years of his second term in office.
His announcement clears the way for several other candidates including Rep. Joe Heck, currently the Republican congressman in Nevada’s District 3 seat. Heck has been in the House since 2011 and, before that, was a state Senator for two terms representing Las Vegas.
“We’ve given this a lot of thought,” Heck told The Associated Press. “Now that the governor has announced he is not running, we will give it additional consideration. I appreciate the outpouring of support and encouragement — we’ll make an announcement very soon.”
If he does as expected, Heck will face a strong Democratic challenger in former Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto who already has Reid’s blessing and has announced her candidacy.
In addition, Las Vegas City Councilman and former Assemblyman Bob Beers has announced his intention to run for the Senate seat.
Heck’s run for the Senate would open his seat for a run by state Senate Majority Leader Michael Roberson of Las Vegas.
Neither man has announced since both were waiting for a decision by Sandoval.
Heller, who has been one of Sandoval’s strong supporters, said he supports the decision.
“While Gov. Sandoval’s voice and experience would have been a welcomed addition here on Capitol Hill, I join the entire Nevada family in wishing him success for the duration of his term in office.”
Lt. Gov. Mark Hutchison is ruling himself out of the race for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Democratic Sen. Harry Reid.
The Republican told The Associated Press on Tuesday that he won’t be a candidate in the race, but plans to diligently support fellow Republicans in the 2016 election cycle.
Reid, 75, the Senate Minority leader, said in March he would not seek a sixth term.
“Everyone knows that I’ve been complimentary of Gov. Sandoval. I think he’s done a good job,” Reid told reporters on Tuesday. “We have a winner in Catherine Cortez Masto. She’s a wonderful longtime Nevadan and in fact lifetime Nevadan, and it doesn’t matter who runs against her she’s going to be just fine.”
Sandoval, 51, had been batting away questions about his political future for the past four months while he successfully ushered a $1.1 billion tax plan and bills authorizing major education investments through the Republican-controlled Nevada Legislature.
“Once the session ended it gave me an opportunity to really sit down with (my wife) Kathleen and the family and think it through,” he said. “I came to the conclusion that I’m very happy where I am and very proud to do this job.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.