In an announcement with national ramifications, Rep. Shelley Berkley, Democrat from Las Vegas, said she will run in 2012 for the Senate seat being vacated by John Ensign. It is a big deal because Ensign is a Republican, and so a Berkley win would swing the seat from one party to the other. (It is also a big deal from our perspective because it would swing the seat from a non-Jew to a Jew: A far more significant pick-up than, say, Al Franken defeating Norm Coleman.) Berkley is seen as a strong candidate in this swing state—whose other senator, Harry Reid, the Democrats’ Majority Leader, narrowly won re-election last year—because of her foreign policy views. Rep. Dean Heller, who is Republican (and not Jewish), has also announced he is running.
If you want to learn more about the idiosyncratic, massively pro-Isael Berkley, look no further than Steve Friess’s profile of her from last October in Tablet Magazine. Among (many) other things, she discussed the prospect of running for Ensign’s seat: “I wouldn’t have a primary,” she said at the time (to a Chabad rabbi, as it happens). “I would capture the Democratic primary without a problem. I have to decide if I’m willing to forgo a sure thing to go for the gold. If I lose, then I’m out. I’d be risking a lot.” Looks like she decided to take the risk.
Marc Tracy is a staff writer at The New Republic, and was previously a staff writer at Tablet. He tweets @marcatracy.