Nevada Sen. Dean Heller talks to the media after winning re-election to… (Julie Jacobson / AP )
WASHINGTON – Democrat Shelley Berkley had hoped a victory by President Obama would carry her to the Senate, but Nevadans split their tickets and returned Republican Sen. Dean Heller to the chamber Tuesday.
The battleground state for the presidency prompted a similarly competitive Senate race. Berkley, a seven-term congresswoman, kept pace in her challenge to Heller, who maintained a steady lead in the polls. Heller pulled through with all precincts reporting, according to the secretary of state’s office.
Heller has long been a popular figure in Nevada politics. He had served as secretary of state and in the House before his 2011 appointment to the Senate. The Republican governor had to fill the seat after the resignation of Republican Sen. John Ensign, who stepped down during an investigation into a sex and lobbying scandal.
But this time Heller was up against the state’s Democratic machine, orchestrated by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, which has proved relentless in getting Democratic voters to the polls. Obama carried the state.
The growing Latino vote has been key in Nevada, where Democrats especially rely on labor unions to turn out the vote. One polling site was in the shadow of the Las Vegas Strip casinos, and workers were able to take buses to the location for early voting.
Berkley faced ethical questions about her work in Congress to save a Nevada medical facility where her husband, a doctor, has a business interest. Voters seemed unswayed by the ethics issues, but Berkley faced difficulty introducing herself to voters outside her Las Vegas district.