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Republican Dean Heller still 'disapointed' with Trump, despite friendship with Mike Pence

Posted at 5:08 PM, Aug 18, 2016
and last updated 2016-08-18 20:08:05-04

Despite a friendship with Republican vice presidential candidate Mike Pence and staunch opposition to Hillary Clinton, Republican Nevada Sen. Dean Heller is still hesitant on support for Donald Trump.

Speaking to reporters after a luncheon with the Las Vegas Metro Chamber of Commerce, Heller said he’s exchanged voicemails with Pence in a desire to “get there,” but remains concerned about the divisive Republican presidential nominee’s rhetoric and statements toward minorities. 

“He’s not going to change his ways and he’s not going to change the way he’s campaigning,” he said. “I’m very, very disappointed in some of the comments he’s made, and I don’t believe you can win the state of Nevada without the support of women and minorities.”

Heller, who isn't up for re-election until 2018, is one of a handful of Republican senators who have refused to back Trump, though he hasn’t explicitly ruled out voting for him. He’s said on multiple occasions that the Republican candidate’s comments on women, minority groups, veterans and the disabled bother him.

“We’re talking a Republican nominee who has put Utah into play,” he said. “I mean that alone is a heck of a message.”

The majority of national polls show Clinton with a sizable lead over Trump, though the race is closer in Nevada. A recent KTNV-TV 13 Action News/Rasmussen Reports indicated Clinton with a small 41 to 40 lead over Trump, with ten percent supporting Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson.

Despite unfavorable polling results for Trump, Heller said he hasn’t written off the Republican candidate with more than 80 days to go before Election Day.

“I think if he’s within five points going into Election Day he has a chance of winning this and that’s what happened with Brexit,” he said, referring to the succesful British referendum on leaving the European Union. “They were down four, they were being written off by all the media and ended up winning by a point and a half, and he has some real insight when he calls himself the Brexit candidate.”

Heller also expressed concern that Democratic Sen. Harry Reid’s impending retirement could open up the door to renewed efforts to open up a nuclear waste site at Yucca Mountain. He said other members of the delegation were “getting a little bit soft” on the issue and feared certain members of Congress want to “cram this Yucca Mountain down our throat.”

“I know myself and Congresswoman Titus and others know that this is a big deal for the state of Nevada and we’re going to do everything we can to stop this.”

Heller also said one of his main priorities in Washington was ensuring continual funding to transportation needs, most critically the proposed Interstate-11 highway that would Las Vegas and Phoenix. He said approval of a long-term federal transportation funding bill last year was a good start.

“You cannot have a growth economy without a good transportation system in this country,” he said.