Surrogates unleashed in Berkley-Heller race

This week’s primary elections in Nevada were just an artifice when it came to the Senate campaign, as Republican Sen. Dean Heller and Democratic Rep. Shelley Berkley already have been slugging it out for months.

Still, just hours after the two became their parties’ official candidates, surrogates unleashed television attack ads that likely are not going to let up until November.

The Democrat-linked Patriot Majority PAC began running a 30-second commercial (first video below) in Reno blasting Heller on Medicare through an elderly Washoe City couple shown puttering in their home.

Jimmie and Dexter Sale "work hard, save what they can and depend on the Medicare they earned," the narrator says, and believe they would be hurt by the Republican proposal to shift the program to a voucher-like "premium support" system that would increase out-of-pocket costs by $6,000 a year.

"It’s going to hurt people who need it the most," Jimmie Sale tells the camera.

Heller’s camp rebutted. The Sales are in their mid-60s and would not be affected because the Medicare changes Heller supported would not affect anyone over 55.

Republicans argue that the reforms give people still years from retirement time to adjust, while, they say, the changes will shore up the program’s shaky finances.

Plus the Sales are not a politically disinterested couple, Republicans contend. Dexter gave $250 to President Barack Obama’s campaign in 2008, federal records show.

"The very basis of this ad is false – these individuals would not be affected by the proposed changes to Medicare," Heller spokeswoman Chandler Smith said.

Meanwhile, the Republican-connected American Crossroads PAC went up on Wednesday with an attack ad (second video below) tied to perhaps the biggest wild card in the Senate race — the ethics allegations that have been hanging around Berkley.

The commercial set to an ominous soundtrack with off-kilter visuals reminds viewers of allegations that Berkley used her official powers to advance issues that benefited her husband, Las Vegas nephrologist Dr. Larry Lerhner.

The House ethics committee is reviewing the allegations that surfaced in a New York Times story last September, and has said it will announce by July 9 whether to dismiss the matter or launch a fuller investigation.

In the meantime, the commercial charges, "Shelley Berkley makes the system work … for herself."

Berkley has offered a rebuttal that her actions on a broad range of health care causes are motivated by concerns for Nevada patients and not to help her husband’s medical practice.

Most recently she defended herself while talking to reporters last Saturday at the Nevada Democratic Party convention.

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