Berkley loses U.S. Senate bid

Dean Heller poster thanking supporters

By Bert Eljera

LAS VEGAS – Failing to hang on to President Obama’s coattails, Shelley Berkley failed in her bid to wrest the U.S. Senate seat from Republican incumbent Dean Heller in Nevada.

In a contentious and expensive election, Berkley, many-time Democratic congresswoman from Las Vegas, lost to Heller by a paper-thin 12,127 votes, with Heller gaining 45.91 percent and Berkley 44.69 percent.

“This was a hard fought campaign,” Heller said in a statement issued after 1:30 a.m. Wednesday, “and I would also like to thank Congresswoman Berkley for her service to our state and to our country.”

The winner was called long after President Barack Obama was declared winner over Mitt Romney, his victory punctuated by a decisive triumph in Nevada with votes Berkley failed to match.

Obama built up a lead of nearly 100,000 votes in heavily Democratic Clark County, and even won Washoe County, where Republican-leaning Reno is located, by more than 6,000 votes.

On the other hand, Berkley built up a 61,000 vote cushion in Clark County, which proved not enough to overcome Heller, who won in every other Nevada county, including Washoe.

He beat Berkley there by more than 16,000 votes, which, in the end, provided the difference.

After the long tense night spent counting ballots, Berkley conceded early Wednesday, and Heller said he was grateful to be heading back to Washington.

“While tonight didn’t turn out the way I would’ve hoped, the fact is I have led that dream,” Berkley said, repeating her stump speech of growing up poor and moving to Las Vegas with her parents 50 years ago.

She worked as a Keno runner, among her early jobs, in the Las Vegas Strip, moving on to become a lawyer and a member of the U.S. Congress, representing Las Vegas.

Heller was in his third term in the House representing a safe northern Nevada district when Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval named him in 2011 to replace U.S. Sen. John Ensign.

“Throughout this campaign, I have been focused on creating a bigger, brighter future for our children and grandchildren,” Heller said. “For their sake, we need to put a stop to out-of-control spending in Washington.”

While the candidates were gracious after the election, the campaign itself was rough and contentious.

Heller branded Berkley the most corrupt politician in Washington. Berkley accused Heller of planning to forever harm Social Security and Medicare.

With control of the Senate in play, super PACs, unions and other outside groups flooded the state with more than $28 million in spending, according to Federal Election Commission figures.

With the campaigns spending more than $18 million themselves, the cost of the race topped $46 million.

Nevadans also re-elected Republican U.S. Reps. Joe Heck and Mark Amodei, returned Democrat Dina Titus to Congress after a two-year hiatus, and sent the state’s first black Senate majority leader, Steven Horsford, to Washington to fill a new House district.


Follow Bert Eljera on Twitter @vegaspinoy60 and on Facebook at

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