Feb. 9, 2016 SIGN IN | REGISTER

Debate-O-Rama in Tossup Senate Races

Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call
Nevada Sen. Dean Heller and Rep. Shelley Berkley were sparring over energy policy, ironically, when a hailstorm cut power to the debate studio.

Whatever your complaint about Thursday night’s vice presidential debate, at least the two nominees didn’t have to endure a power outage in the middle of it.

With the main event between Vice President Joseph Biden and GOP nominee Rep. Paul Ryan (Wis.) overshadowing their showdowns, Nevada Sen. Dean Heller (R) and Rep. Shelley Berkley (D), as well as Connecticut Rep. Christopher Murphy (D) and Republican opponent Linda McMahon, squared off in two of the most hotly contested Senate races in the country.

Heller and Berkley were sparring over energy policy, ironically, when a hailstorm cut power to the debate studio. Twice during the debate, television stations lost their feed during the face-off, according to the Las Vegas Sun.

Still, Berkley and Heller covered a lot of ground in the debate that aired following the vice presidential contest.

Berkley was on the defensive over the ethics allegations that her husband stood to benefit from her efforts to support federal funding for a kidney transplant program. Berkley’s husband has a lucrative medical practice and dialysis treatment center.

“I couldn’t have done more to make sure everyone knew my husband was a kidney specialist,” she said, according to the Sun. “I don’t think I should have disclosed more.”

Heller and Berkley had a testy exchange over regulation of online poker. The issue is of tremendous local importance, and Nevada’s powerful casino industry wants federal legislation to control the spread of online gambling. But Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has used the issue to bludgeon Heller for being unable to deliver Republican votes for the measure.

Reid says the poker bill “may be the most important issue facing Nevada since Yucca Mountain.” Killing the nuclear waste repository has been one of the accomplishments that Reid is most happy to tout in describing his own record.

“And I’ll be the first to say that I believe I have two opponents in this particular race; I have the Congresswoman, and I have Sen. Reid also,” Heller said. “And I’m OK with that. Because we’re going to continue to push forward, and I’ll continue to push forward on the online gaming. And we’re going to get a bill passed before the end of the year.”

Heller has said he wants the bill to originate in the House, which Reid aides say was never part of the deal.

The Nevada News Bureau provided audio clips of the debate.

In an attack that has fallen flat with Nevada media, national Democrats sought to criticize Heller for calling Latinos “these people” in explaining his position on immigration.

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