WASHINGTON (AP) — In Nevada's hotly contested U.S. Senate race, Republican Sen. Dean Heller proposed Thursday that he and Democrat Rep. Shelley Berkley participate in seven debates across the state over the coming months.
Heller's campaign suggested in a letter that debates begin in July, with no more than two per month until early voting begins Oct. 20. Each debate would be televised on a major broadcast station in Nevada.
Berkley's campaign replied that it already has agreed to one debate and plans on agreeing to more.
"We look forward to a serious discussion with the Heller campaign on scheduling these debates once he's done with these political stunts," said Berkley campaign communications director Xochitl Hinojosa.
The Heller campaign said it would be flexible regarding the format of the debates, such as whether the candidates would sit or stand and how much time would be allotted for responses. Heller's campaign proposed holding debates in Las Vegas, Reno, Carson City and Elko.
The debate challenge came on a busy day for both camps as Berkley's campaign announced that she had raised more than $1.5 million from April 1 to June 30, while Heller's campaign said he would report raising about $1.2 million for the same quarter. Berkley edged Heller in fundraising in the previous quarter, also. The two camps also are reporting that they each have more than $4 million in the bank, ensuring that their battle on the airwaves is sure to intensify.
On the ad front, Berkley's campaign launched two new television ads Thursday, one defending her efforts to prevent reimbursement cuts to Medicare dialysis providers, and another attacking Heller for his votes supporting a GOP budget proposal. That proposal, referred to as the Ryan plan, would transform Medicare into a program that subsidizes the purchase of private health coverage rather than one that directly reimburses doctors and other health care providers for the services they offer to Medicare participants. The ad accuses Heller of voting for a plan that would raise premiums for seniors and would "essentially end Medicare."
Berkley has come under fire for her efforts to prevent reimbursement cuts to dialysis providers and to prevent the closure of Nevada's only kidney transplant program. Her husband is a physician whose nephrology practice directed medical services at the hospital's kidney care department. The House Ethics Commission announced Monday that it had begun a formal investigation into her advocacy efforts.
Berkley's other ad released Thursday makes the case that the ethics complaint was filed by Republicans for political gain.
"Dean Heller's actually attacking Berkley for trying to stop cuts to Medicare coverage for hundreds of thousands of patients nationwide," says the ad's announcer.
Heller's campaign, which had consistently declined to comment on the Ethics Committee review, changed course this week with an ad that states "Shelley Berkley took care of herself, and she got caught."