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Berkley wants to talk with Obama

WASHINGTON — It’s been a week since Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada endorsed Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., to be the next president.

But Nevada’s other congressional Democrat remains conspicuously silent.

"I’m waiting for a telephone call," Rep. Shelley Berkley, D-Nev., said Thursday.

Berkley said she wants to talk to Obama about what he plans to do about U.S. efforts to store the nation’s nuclear waste at Yucca Mountain, 100 miles northwest of Las Vegas.

Although she feels "secure" that Obama will oppose the project, Berkley said, she needs to hear it from him.

Berkley also wants to talk to Obama about Israel and a number of other topics. Obama "hit a home run" with his speech last week to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee.

"I will be playing a pivotal role in this presidential election. Nevada is a must-win state for both parties," Berkley said. "I think, given that reality and given the reality that I’m on the ground all of August and all of October leading to the election, and there will be certain expectations of me, that a phone call from Senator (Obama), our nominee, is not asking a lot before I publicly make my endorsement."

Berkley also said the timing of the endorsement is important. Her endorsement of Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., helped "blunt" the Culinary union’s endorsement of Obama in the Nevada caucus in January because both endorsements occurred on the same day, Berkley said.

"As close as (Obama) is to Senator Reid, and they have a strong working relationship, and (Senator Reid) has already come out and endorsed him, I think I add a uniqueness to this as well," Berkley said.

"I want to establish my own relationship with Senator Obama rather than rely on Senator Reid," she said.

A call to state Sen. Steven Horsford of Clark County, who helps lead Obama’s campaign in Nevada, was not returned.

Berkley said she wants to be a part of Obama’s presidential campaign, not an "appendage."

Although she said in February she would be proud to become "an Obama mama" if the Illinois senator won the nomination, Berkley said she is still troubled by the way Clinton was treated during the bitter contest for the Democratic presidential nomination.

The sexism issue came up during a meeting Berkley attended Wednesday night with a group of women House Democrats.

"Even the most ardent female supporters of Barack Obama acknowledged and spoke with great sensitivity about the way Hillary Clinton was treated and the things that were said that went unchallenged," Berkley said.

Berkley complained about hecklers who showed up at Clinton rallies and held up signs like, "Iron my shirt."

"I don’t think any of us stood up and denounced that as convincingly and as strongly as we should have," she said.

Nevertheless, Berkley said Clinton is not necessarily her choice to be Obama’s vice presidential running mate.

"She would make a wonderful vice presidential candidate, but it’s not a condition of my support, and I’m not sure it’s in her best interest," Berkley said.

Contact Stephens Washington Bureau reporter Tony Batt at tbatt@ stephensmedia.com or 202-783-1760.

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