Author’s Note: This is the second in a series of five on Democratic women running for US Senate.
In this year’s election, the percentage of women in the Senate has the possibility of reaching landmark numbers. Currently there are 17 female senators out of 100.
Even though women make up the majority of the population--yes, there are more women than men—their demographic has never been equally represented in Washington. This year, however, the Senate can prove to be the locus in quo where women show their strength and succeed in keeping the Democrats in control.
The Republicans need to pick up four seats in order to seize a majority. The balance of power can be maintained by the Democrats by electing these five women: Elizabeth Warren in Massachusetts,in Wisconsin, Shelley Berkeley in Nevada, Heidi Heitkamp in North Dakota, and in Hawaii.
Senate candidate Shelley Berkley has been a US Representative from Nevada since 1999. She was the second woman elected to Congress from Nevada, the first woman elected to the 1st District and the first elected as a Democrat., the current Republican senator, was appointed when the seat was vacated by the resignation of amid ethics violations. Ensign won his Senate seat in 2000 and 2006 with 55 percent of the vote. Third parties in Nevada in past elections represent a only 1-2 percentage points in voting and have had little impact on outcomes.
Heller is pro-life, supports domestic development of oil, coal and gas, and voted the Republican Party line against tax subsidies for renewable energy projects. He has the dubious distinction of voting twice for Paul Ryan’s budget plan, once in the US House of Representatives and again when he was appointed senator, and shares the conservative values of the Republican Party. The National Rifle Association has endorsed Heller recently at a rally in Las Vegas touting gun ownership needs to be protected.
At the same time, Berkley has enjoyed the endorsements from two Spanish-language newspapers including El Mundo, which is the oldest and largest in Nevada. The owner of El Mundo, Eddie Escobedo Jr., and Berkley joined forces against Heller for his non-participation in Hispanic meetings and views on immigration policy. Confirmation by the Hispanic community which is one of the largest segments of the population employed by restaurants and gaming establishments should secure also her support from the Nevada business community.
Berkley has her work cut out for her in challenging Dean Heller. Since Las Vegas is one of the primary population centers of Nevada, she should garner their support because she is known as one of the supporters to regulate online gambling, thereby protecting gambling centers in her state. She was one of the few congressional members to oppose Bill Frist’s addition of the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006. While Heller has basically a clear record, she was under investigation together with her husband for financial dealings in the past. However, her endorsements include the Sierra Club, National Education Association and the National Women’s Political Caucus.
, the Democratic senior senator from Nevada since 1987, is serving this term until 2017. Both he and Heller are Mormons, which may or may not play out the election. Reid has kept his seat by bridging the gap between conservatives and liberals. He scored 19 percent from the American Conservative Union, which is significant among Democratic representatives. Still, he has balanced support and has scored highly with women’s pro-choice groups and Planned Parenthood.
Berkley is up against the campaign donations of Republican billionairewho has been on a 15-year quest to remove her from office. The ethics issue has weighed her down, and the main hope for victory is she will be lifted by a significant statewide Democratic registration advantage and a legendary get-out-the-vote machine built by Reid and her support from the Hispanic community. Whether this momentum in voting numbers will be affected by negative ads sponsored by Adelson remains to be seen and can only have significant impact if there are cross-over Democratic voters, which at this time appears to be unlikely.
Meanwhile, the Obama campaign is acting aggressively in Nevada. Jeremy Bird, national field director for the Obama campaign, said in an interview that whether you're an active voter or an inactive voter, he is confident the president's team of volunteers will find you, according to the Las Vegas Review Journal.
"The key there is they can vote," Bird said. "Our strategy is to build our neighborhood team so that each of our teams knows who the voters are. They go to their houses, send them text messages. Fortunately, in a place like Nevada, we have several days of election days and we can get them."
Early voting lasts for two weeks before the Nov. 6 election.
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