Rep. Joe Heck is running for Senate in Nevada, giving the Republicans a top-tier contender for the seat being vacated by Democrat Harry Reid.

In Heck, a battle-tested Republican who represents a competitive, Las Vegas-area district, the Republicans get what one D.C.-based GOP operative called a "five-star recruit" to challenge for the seat long held by Reid, the top Senate Democrat who is retiring after five terms. Heck, 53, a physician and military veteran, revealed his plans Monday in a web video posted on his Senate campaign website.

"I've seen suffering in my family, and in Nevada families. That's why I've devoted my life to healing the hurt, mending broken lives and fixing problems. I'm a healer; that's what I am, and that's what I do," Heck said in his announcement video.

Heck is the first Republican to announce for Senate in Nevada, a state won by President Obama in 2012. That year, Obama defeated Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney by nearly seven points. Meanwhile, Sen. Dean Heller, a Republican appointee, won election over Rep. Shelley Berkley by a mere 1.2 percentage points. Nevada is swing territory, and Heck's prospects could depend on the outcome of the presidential contest.

In 2010, despite the Republican wave, Reid won re-election over Sharron Angle, a Tea Party favorite but weak Republican candidate. At least at the outset, Heck appears stronger — and Reid's strong political machine could end up somewhat diluted since the Senate minority leader is not standing for re-election. According to a Republican insider in Nevada, Heck has regularly won close to 40 percent of the Silver State's crucial Hispanic voting bloc in his district.

"He has consistently won the touch races," this insider said.

The Democrats, who are expected to field former Nevada Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto, came out swinging.

"Congressman Heck has spent his time in Washington catering to insurance companies, big banks and Washington special interests instead of NV," tweeted Justin Barasky, a spokesman for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.