U.S. Rep. Shelley Berkley’s “Latinos for Shelley” group made its debut as April ended, and a few things about this effort on behalf of her U.S. Senate campaign are worth noting.
Berkley has long experience with many of those leading the group. Most are Democratic, as you would expect, but that also reflects that Berkley has worked closely with the party over the years and vice versa. If you looked up ubiquitous in the dictionary, her picture might be beside it.
She has been especially ubiquitous in her House district. And that brings up an advantage for her and a disadvantage for her opponent, Sen. Dean Heller: She has represented that district for seven terms. It is strongly Hispanic, and it long has been. Berkley wouldn’t take any possible vote for granted, and she wisely isn’t taking it for granted that her support in the Hispanic community doesn’t need some outreach.
It also hurts Heller that he doesn’t have much more to run on in the Latino community than a couple of hopes. One is the hope that his social conservatism will appeal to socially conservative Latinos. Another is the hope that the Latino community itself may be divided, or even upset about the lack of a Latino candidate for Congress.
That’s where Heller runs into further trouble. No community—racial, ethnic, religious, or gender—is a monolith. Many in politics say that but don’t always act on what they are saying. But anything and everything could affect Heller’s support in the Hispanic community, from the top of Heller’s ticket (Will Mitt Romney choose U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, and will Rubio’s Cuban background mean a lot in Hispanic areas without a large population of Cubans?) to legislation (Heller’s opposition to the DREAM Act and being the only member of Congress to vote for Rep. Paul Ryan’s budget plan, which would gut Medicare, twice).
Nor does it necessarily help that Heller has the strong support of Gov. Brian Sandoval, who didn’t do that well among Latino voters in 2010. Add in state Sen. Ruben Kihuen was a prominent part of Berkley’s announcement, and of course he withdrew from his primary against Dina Titus in Berkley’s old district. Kihuen has a bright future in the Democratic Party and Nevada, and one way to assure it is making his presence felt where he can be helpful. He can be helpful here,
and it will be interesting to see how much he does and can do for Berkley, especially with Sen. Harry Reid keenly interested in this race. His continued status as majority leader could well depend on this race.