An ethics investigation can be a precursor to a candidate’s party and supporters slowly — or not so slowly — backing away. But in the case of the Nevada Senate race, Democrats are rushing to support Rep. Shelley Berkley in her bid to unseat Republican Sen. Dean Heller.
The House Ethics Committee voted to proceed with an investigation last week, into whether Berkley acted improperly in her advocacy on behalf of a kidney transplant program at University Medical Center in Las Vegas. Berkley’s husband, Dr. Larry Lehrner, is a kidney specialist and managing partner of a company that has contracted with the hospital.
But instead of prioritizing other races or leaving Berkley to fend for herself, party leaders and outside groups have stepped forward on Berkley’s behalf, pledging money and reaffirming their faith in the congresswoman.
Two days after the investigation was announced, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee reserved over $2.3 million worth of TV advertising for the fall.
The state’s senior senator, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, has reiterated his support for his colleague and would-be fellow Nevada senator.
“I frankly think it’s good that this is all coming out in the open. This complaint was filed by the Republicans, so fine, let’s go and follow it through,” Reid said Thursday on an Obama campaign conference call. “I think you will find she didn’t violate any rules whatsoever. You can look into this more — I’m sure they will — but I don’t think there’s a problem with that.”
EMILY’s List, the group working to elect pro-abortion rights Democratic women, made a show of its support Friday.
“When voters go to the polls this November, they’re going to want a representative who puts them first — and that’s Shelley Berkley,” Stephanie Schriock, the group’s president, said in a statement. “The EMILY’s List community has been proud to stand with Shelley for more than a decade — now at 1.5 million members, we’re ready to send Shelley to the Senate to continue her fight for women and families.”
Even if Berkley were to withdraw from the race, state law would not allow Democrats to pick a new candidate — a fact the National Republican Senatorial Committee made sure to publicly confirm with the secretary of state’s office.
But Berkley has shown no signs of backing down. In fact, she has risen to her own defense.
Her campaign released a new round of ads Thursday, one of which addressed the ethics inquiry head-on — and used it as an opportunity to hit Heller on the issue of Medicare.
“How about the truth, Dean Heller? The complaint against Shelley Berkley was filed by the Republican Party,” the announcer says. “Dean Heller’s actually attacking Berkley for trying to stop cuts to Medicare coverage for hundreds of thousands of patients nationwide. The Las Vegas Sun says Berkley’s ‘advocacy wasn’t driven for personal gain, it was aimed at helping Nevadans.’ And Dean Heller? Heller voted twice to end Medicare as we know it. You decide, who’s for you?”