Former Senator dies |

Former Senator dies

CARSON CITY (AP) – Chic Hecht, a conservative Republican known as much for his verbal miscues as his upset victory over a powerful Democratic incumbent in a 1982 U.S. Senate race, died from cancer Monday in a Las Vegas hospital. He was 77.

Hecht’s death was confirmed by longtime family friend Francine Pulliam. Hecht, who had been diagnosed with prostate cancer a year ago, had been unconscious for most of the past three weeks since he was hospitalized, Pulliam said.

Contacted at his home in early April shortly before he was hospitalized, Hecht spoke frankly about his deteriorating health.

“I’m hanging in there,” he said at the time.

Hecht was praised by former U.S. Sen. Paul Laxalt, R-Nev., who described him as “one of the guttiest politicians I’ve ever encountered.”

Laxalt recalled thinking that Hecht was “half crazy” when the one-time Las Vegas clothing store owner ran for a state Senate seat in a heavily Democratic district in 1966.

Hecht won that race, and when he decided to challenge U.S. Sen. Howard Cannon, D-Nev., in 1982, Laxalt recalled thinking, “Chic, you’re really on a kamikaze mission this time.”

“Yet he proved all the doubters wrong once again and shocked the political world by winning by some 6,000 votes,” Laxalt said. Hecht was helped to the narrow victory after Cannon was caught up in a Teamsters union scandal.

Hecht served one term in the Senate, and was defeated by Democrat Dick Bryan in his unsuccessful bid for a second term. After that, he served for five years as the U.S. ambassador to the Bahamas, before returning to private business.

While in the Senate, Hecht became known for his verbal slips, once referring to the proposed nuclear waste repository that the federal government wants to open at Nevada’s Yucca Mountain as a “nuclear suppository.”

Hecht served on the Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee and was chairman of the Housing and Urban Affairs subcommittee. He also served on the Energy and Natural Resources Committee and the Select Committee on Intelligence, which oversees intelligence-gathering activities of federal agencies.

Born Mayer Jacob Hecht in Cape Girardeau, Mo., Hecht was known since childhood as Chic, a nickname given him by an uncle.

After graduation from Washington University in St. Louis in 1949, Hecht served in Europe as an Army counterintelligence agent in Berlin in 1952 and 1953.

Soon afterward, Hecht moved to Nevada, where he became a prominent and wealthy businessman. He is survived by his wife, Gail, and two daughters, Lori and Leslie.

Memorial arrangements were pending.

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