Rep. Shelley Berkley says that even though national Democrats are openly talking with others about Nevada’s open Senate race, she expects the party to defer to her when it comes time to pick a contender.
Nevada and Washington, D.C., sources said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has concerns with Berkley’s candidacy and isn’t sure she would be the strongest candidate. That’s one reason Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee Executive Director Guy Cecil traveled to the Silver State last month to meet with three state officials about their interest.
The Republicans already have their candidate, Rep. Dean Heller, who is unlikely to face a significant primary challenge. Berkley, who told Roll Call that she would make a decision by this summer whether to run for the seat being vacated by embattled Sen. John Ensign (R), dismissed the DSCC’s meetings.
“I’ve paid my dues. I’ve worked really hard. I think they have a good deal of trust and faith in me to do the right thing,” Berkley said in an interview. “They know if I do this, it’s for all the right reasons, and they’ll defer to me.”
Berkley added: “There’s no promises in this business, so what looks like a sure bet to me could not be six months from now. I’d like to know going into this, if I’m going to give up a seat that I love to run for this, I want to have a good faith belief that it’s possible to win.”
Ensign held the 1st district seat that Berkley now represents before he ran for the Senate in 1998. She hired the Mellman Group to conduct a statewide poll, the results of which are expected soon, and she is traveling throughout the state as she decides whether to run.
But the DSCC met with several attractive candidates who are waiting in the wings: Secretary of State Ross Miller, Treasurer Kate Marshall and Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto, who is considered the favorite of the three. The Congresswoman acknowledged that each would be a strong statewide candidate but said they are deferring to her until she makes an announcement.
“Any one of them could have stepped up and said, ‘I’m going to do this no matter what she does,’ but they haven’t. People really like me,” Berkley told Roll Call.
Just as he defers to committee chairmen in the Senate, Reid is similarly letting Berkley explore her own decision before he considers whether to weigh in, Democratic sources confirmed. But Reid is the pre-eminent Democratic force in Nevada, and sources predicted he will ultimately get involved in order to win the seat as he also fights to protect his party’s majority status in the Senate.
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