By Ray Hagar, Nevada Newsmakers
Former U.S. Rep. Shelley Berkley, D-Las Vegas, has some advice for U.S. Rep. Jacky Rosen, D-Henderson, as Rosen gears up for a 2018 U.S. Senate election battle against incumbent Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nv.
Speaking on Nevada Newsmakers recently, Berkley told Rosen not to let others run your campaign and don’t underestimate Heller, even if you don’t think he is a strong political candidate.
“I lost my election,” Berkley said. “I listened to bad advice. I wasn’t myself during the campaign. I was very scripted and I’m not a scripted person and it didn’t work. It was obvious from the start and I could never correct it.”
She also said Rosen may have a tendency to underestimate Heller, but don’t.
“I would tell her and I have: Do not take Dean Heller for granted,” Berkley said. “I have know Dean for 30 years and I was never overly impressed with him. I think he is an average politician, not a great speaker, (not great at) all of the things where one would distinguish themselves, I don’t see it. But obviously, the people in the state of Nevada did see something. So my advice to her is do not take this man for granted.”
Berkley allowed national Democratic media experts to run her U.S. Senate campaign in 2012. Her usual outgoing and glib style was muffled by her campaign and she ended up losing to Heller by a razor’s edge of 1.2 percentage points.
The loss ended her political career — one that included stops in Congress, the Nevada Legislature and the Nevada university system’s Board of Regents.
“The reality is he (Heller) is unoffensive and people, you know, will vote for somebody who is unoffensive,” Berkley said.
“And so that would be my advice: Never take him for granted,” Berkley continued. “I don’t think she will. And to stay on your game. Run your campaign. Get the advice from everybody. But in the end, it is your election. It’s your name on the ballot and you got to do what works for you. Frankly, so far, I’ve seen her do exactly that.”
Before Heller can face Rosen in the 2018 general election, he must overcome a GOP primary challenge from Danny Tarkanian, son of former UNLV basketball Coach Jerry Tarkanian.
“You know I’m very close to the Tarkanian family because of my years on the Board of Regents,” Berkley said. “Danny has never lost primary (but) has never won a general. He appeals to a certain segment of the Republican voting population, especially in a primary. So I think that is something that Dean is going to have to watch.”
Tarkanian has lost just one GOP primary, his 2010 U.S. Senate bid, to former Reno Assemblywoman Sharron Angle.
Tarkanian has said he supports President Donald Trump and earlier this year earned the support of former Trump adviser, Steve Bannon.
Yet Bannon was fired from his White House adviser’s job by Trump and his stature among the GOP has faded, especially since Trump sees Bannon as one who is responsible for many leaks of information from his administration. Trump mentioned Bannon at the annual Gridiron Club annual dinner last weekend, joking, “That guy leaked more than the Titanic.”
The connection to Bannon may hurt Tarkanian in the GOP primary, Berkley said.
“Frankly, I thought Danny had a better chance before Steve Bannon faded into the sunset,” Berkely said. “I think that would have given him a lot more stroke in this election.”
It would harm Tarkanian if Trump campaigns for Heller, Berkley said.
“If Donald Trump, President Trump comes in and campaigns for Dean, that will not be to the benefit of Danny,” she said. “But Danny, God bless this man. You cannot say he isn’t tenacious. He’s gonna be out there and you know and well as I do that midterm elections, the people who show up to vote are the party faithful. And they tend to like Danny Tarkanian.”
Trump’s support may be a double-edged sword for Heller.
“Dean changed some of his positions in order to accommodate Donald Trump,” Berkley said. “Now in a general election, that is going to hurt him. In a primary, probably not.”
Watch this episode of Nevada Newsmakers here.
See the upcoming schedule of Nevada Newsmakers here.