Bush visits Reno to stump for Heller
Associated Press Writer
RENO – President Bush urged Nevadans on Monday to give their time and money to help elect Republican Dean Heller in a race Bush said was important to the GOP maintaining control of Congress, extending tax cuts and winning the war on terror.
“I’m here to say as clearly as I can: Dean Heller is the right person for the United States Congress,” Bush told about 500 party faithful during a two-hour stop in Reno.
“He and I share our priorities – our faith, our family and our country,” the president told voters in the 2nd Congressional District, which has not elected a Democrat since it was created 25 years ago.
“Obviously this is a race that my administration considers to be an important race. That’s why I got on the airplane after meeting with the prime minister of Turkey to come out here and help Dean,” Bush said.
His visit was met with noisy protests from Democrats who think this is the year for finally taking the seat out of the red column. About 100 protesters rallied near the Mercury Air Center at Reno-Tahoe International Airport where Bush arrived shortly after 4:30 p.m.
“I think it’s an indication of how desperate the Republicans have gotten to try to hang onto a seat that just a year ago was considered a slam dunk for the Republicans,” said Pam duPre, executive director of the Washoe County Democratic Party.
Heller, Nevada’s secretary of state, is running against Democrat Jill Derby, an 18-year veteran of the state board of regents, for the seat being left open by Republican Rep. Jim Gibbons’ bid for governor after five terms in Congress.
There was no indication Bush was aware of the protest, which took place about a half mile from the airport hangar where the president appeared.
He gave a 25-minute speech at a reception that helped Heller raise $360,000. Donors paid $500 to attend the reception, held on a cement-floored hangar decorated with blue curtains. Some paid $2,100 to also be photographed with the president.
“It’s a good sign, Dean, when your friends and neighbors are willing to put a little hard-earned cash into the hat in order to help you. But he’s going to need more than your money, he’s going to need your time,’ Bush said.
“Go to your houses of worships or your community centers and say, ‘We’ve got a good man in Dean Heller,”‘ Bush said.
“He loves his family, he loves his country, he loves the people of the 2nd Congressional District.”
Heller said Bush’s visit shows the importance party leaders are placing on keeping the seat in the GOP column. Democrats need to gain 15 seats nationwide to regain control of the U.S. House of Representatives.
“To have them here stumping for me is beyond my biggest dreams,” Heller said this weekend.
Bush devoted much of his speech to the war on terrorism.
“I want you all to remember when you go to the polls here in Nevada, what political party supported the president to make sure we have the tools necessary to protect the American people and which political party didn’t,” he said.