Colletti bucks Heller



If there is a more difficult task than a Democrat seeking the northern Nevada U.S. House seat (“Daunting challenge,” May 5), it would probably be a Republican running against GOP incumbent Dean Heller in the primary in that district. That’s the task Reno pediatrician Patrick Colletti has set for himself.

Colletti wants to give a voice to GOP conservatives tired of the party being used as a vehicle for extreme social conservatives who are unwilling to engage with the opposition Democrats.

Not surprisingly for a pediatrician, his turning point came with a children’s issue—George Bush’s vetoes of reauthorization of the 1997 State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP). Colletti, a former president of the state Academy of Pediatrics chapter, received calls from the national academy asking him to seek Heller’s vote on the override. After he spoke with Heller, Colletti said, “He decided he had to vote with the president.”

Though many Republicans crossed over to support the SCHIP program, it was twice narrowly defeated as a result of Bush vetoes.

“It led to a series of health care problems that ultimately resulted in a large chunk of our national immunization program getting hurt,” Colletti said.

After that experience, Colletti watched Heller’s voting record more closely. Heller, a former state legislator and Nevada secretary of state, was a Republican moderate as a state official but moved to the right when he ran for the House.

“I think the whole ‘politics of no,’ that strategy was a failure,” Colletti said.

Raised in Virginia City—his father, Edward Colletti, was Storey County justice of the peace for 28 years—Colletti graduated from high school on the Comstock, then from the University of Nevada, Reno. He entered the first UN medical school class when the school was only a two-year institution, then finished up in Iowa. After the Navy, he returned to Nevada.

He says in Virginia City he learned to “get something done” and that cannot happen with Republicans refusing to work with Democrats in Congress.

“There’s a huge chunk of moderate Republicans who kind of got pushed to the side … and they really want things to get done,” he said.

Colletti says he was advised by Nevada Senate GOP leader William Raggio to focus on “jobs, jobs, jobs.” The pediatrician is emphasizing Great Basin energy and environmental issues that can bring new economic activity to the state. Colletti wants aggressive action to deal with the takeover of the basin by non-native plants.

“We’ve got to reseed the Great Basin. It’s a big job but, you know, I talked with people at the Department of Wildlife, and they try every year to seed ex-burns from the year before, but they run into so much bureaucratic red tape and stuff that they never get a go-ahead until it’s too dry.”

Raggio has taken the interesting posture of endorsing both candidates and giving campaign contributions to both of them.