Shelley Berkley showed Thursday why she's better known for her offense than her defense.
Three days after she was stung by a House Ethics Committee investigation, the Nevada congresswoman fired back with two new television ads blasting her Republican opponent in the Senate race for his votes in favor of reworking Medicare.
The ethics charges have rocked Mrs. Berkley's campaign in what was expected to be one of the most competitive races this fall, as the Las Vegas Democrat takes on first-term GOP incumbent Sen. Dean Heller in a battle that could help determine which party controls the Senate next year.
Nobody familiar with Mrs. Berkley's political career should be surprised at her aggressive approach, said University of Nevada, Reno political scientist Eric Herzik.
"This is certainly within Shelley Berkley's character," Mr. Herzik said. "She's often described as feisty, combative. She's not going to back down from these charges."
Mr. Heller moved to take advantage of his Democratic rival's ethics woes, airing an ad highlighting the House ethics panel investigation into whether Mrs. Berkley used her influence in Congress to benefit her husband's medical practice.
"Berkley pushed legislation and twisted the arms of federal regulators, advocating policies for financial gain, saving her husband's industry millions," the ad says. "Shelley Berkley took care of herself, and she got caught."
The ethics probe centers on Mrs. Berkley's advocacy on behalf of the University Medical Center kidney-transplant center in Las Vegas. Her husband, Dr. Larry Lehrner, has a financial stake in the center.
The Berkley camp received a vote of confidence from national Democrats on Wednesday when the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee reserved $2.3 million in Nevada advertising time for the fall.
The National Republican Campaign Committee previously had reserved $3 million in advertising time for the Heller campaign.
Mr. Heller called Thursday for a series of eight candidate debates before the Nov. 6 election, a somewhat surprising move for an incumbent. The former congressman was appointed to the Senate after the resignation last year of Republican Sen. John Ensign.
Polls show the candidates locked in a virtual tie in the race.
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