Dean Heller of Carson City took office Monday to become the 25th man to represent the state of Nevada in the U.S. Senate.
Right hand raised, Heller, a Republican who turns 51 on Tuesday, was administered the oath of office by Vice President Joe Biden in a short ceremony on the Senate floor.
Fellow Nevadan Harry Reid, the Senate majority leader, stood behind Heller during his swearing-in and welcomed him to the body. Heller's wife, Lynne, their four children and a son-in-law, as well a half-dozen members of his House staff, looked on from the gallery overlooking the chamber.
For Heller, the swearing-in capped a series of fast-moving events dating to when he declared in March that he would run for Senate in the 2012 elections to succeed fellow Republican and incumbent Sen. John Ensign, who was wounded by ethics allegations and announced he would not seek re-election.
A month later, Ensign resigned outright, prompting Gov. Brian Sandoval to appoint Heller, then a House member, to fill out the unexpired term until 2012.
But to Democrats, Heller's swearing-in carries an asterisk since he was not elected. The party has mounted a series of criticisms against Heller's recent voting record as a House member, and strategists say they plan to keep up the pressure.
Rep. Shelley Berkley, D-Nev., has declared her candidacy for the seat, as well as attorney Byron Georgiou.
In Las Vegas, Democrats planned to hold a swearing-in event of their own this afternoon to bring attention to Heller's voting record in the House and his "out-of-touch record on jobs, seniors and veterans."