By a margin of just over one percent, Nevada voters have returned Dean Heller (R-NV) to the U.S. Senate, dealing him a narrow victory over Rep. Shelley Berkley (D-NV).
The contest between Berkley and Heller was one of the tightest Senate races this cycle, in one of the most notoriously difficult to poll states in the country. Nevada has a large and growing Hispanic populations, which helped propel President Obama to re-election, and saved Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) from defeat in the 2010 midterms.
The campaign was defined by two competing lines of attack. Heller moved from the House to the Senate this past Congress, replacing Sen. John Ensign, who resigned mid-term. In that capacity he twice and proudly voted for the GOP’s controversial budget, which famously calls for dramatically lower taxes on wealthy Americans and for the privatization of Medicare.
But a cloud hung over Berkley’s candidacy for months, after the House Ethics Committee in July launched a formal investigation into whether she used her influence to protect a kidney transplant practice in Las Vegas in which her husband had a financial interest. Last September, The New York Times reported that Berkley had for years “pushed legislation or twisted the arms of federal regulators to pursue an agenda that is aligned with the business interests of her husband, Dr. Larry Lehrner.”
Democrats defended Berkley, who denied any conflict of interest and argued that other Nevada elected officials, including Heller, also sought to intervene on behalf of the transplant center.
Berkley will be replaced in the House by once and future Rep. Dina Titus.
Brian Beutler is TPM's senior congressional reporter. Since 2009, he's led coverage of health care reform, Wall Street reform, taxes, the GOP budget, the government shutdown fight, and the debt limit fight. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.