Berkley says husband will 'be there for me' on campaign trail when needed

Dr. Larry Lehrner, husband of Shelley Berkley, sits to the right of candidates Dina Titus, left, John Oceguera and Berkley at the Democratic office in Henderson on primary election night, June 12. (John Locher/Las Vegas Review-Journal)

Democratic U.S. Rep. Shelley Berkley's husband, Dr. Larry Lehrner, is rarely seen on the campaign trail.

He attended Berkley's June 12 primary victory party when she won the Democratic nomination for the U.S. Senate and the right to face Republican U.S. Sen. Dean Heller in November.

But Lehrner spends most of his time running his busy nephrology practice, including dialysis centers across the Las Vegas Valley, Berkley said Monday.

"He works about 12 hours a day, seven days a week," Berkley said in an interview after she celebrated the 47th anniversary of Medicare at a Las Vegas senior center. "I call him a doctor's doctor."

Lehrer’s practice has gotten a lot of attention lately in the Senate campaign, however. The House Ethics Committee is investigating Berkley's efforts to help save a kidney transplant center in which her husband has a financial interest at University Medical Center. The ethics panel also is reviewing whether Berkley profited financially by promoting bills to help kidney doctors like her husband.

Berkley has repeatedly said her only interest was in helping Nevada kidney patients and not her husband's bottom line. She said again Monday that she's confident she'll be vindicated.

Having Lehrner on the campaign trail with Berkley could remind voters of the ethics investigation -- or expose him to uncomfortable questions. He hasn't commented on the ethics investigation so far.
Berkley suggested that's not the issue.

"He's very busy with his practice," Berkley said.

Lehrner's never been a big part of Berkley's seven previous congressional campaigns, although he's been at her side to celebrate her victories.

"He doesn't covet the limelight," Berkley said. "He's a behind the scenes, no nonsense guy."

The couple are sometimes seen at various social events around town, which in an election year can serve the campaign, too,

"When it's appropriate for him to be with me, he's more than glad to do it," she said. "He likes it. But on the other hand, I have to be respectful of the role he plays in saving lives."

So will voters be seeing more of Lehrner in the final three months of the Senate campaign?

"When he's needed on the campaign trail, I know he'll be there for me," Berkley said.

Berkley knows how important spouses can be for campaigns -- traditionally wives for their candidate husbands, however. Berkley learned the political ropes from fellow Democrats, U.S. Sen. Harry Reid and former U.S. Sen. Dick Bryan, as well as former Gov. Mike O'Callaghan. But she said it was their wives who made her feel at home and comfortable at events.

"I felt like a person," she said. "They made me feel like I was important to be there."

Heller's wife, Lynne, campaigns with him fairly often, usually on the weekends when he's home from Washington and at family affairs such as parades and community events.

On the Fourth of July, she was with Heller all day. She helped him flip pancakes at a breakfast in Boulder City. walked with him in the Summerlin parade and attended houses parties and the fireworks in Mesquite.

The couple sometimes ride their horses, Jackson and Cruise, in parades, most recently at the Reno Rodeo. The campaign tweeted a photo:

A talented singer, Lynne Heller sang the national anthem one night at the Reno Rodeo to open the event. In Southern Nevada, she sang the national anthem at the Nevada Truck Driving Championship in Las Vegas in June and Heller spoke to the crowd from the inside of a trailer truck. Twitter recorded the moment.