Thursday, May 3, 2012 | 10:29 a.m.
After 14 years in Washington, Democratic U.S. Rep. Shelley Berkley is reintroducing herself as a champion for veterans with her first TV ad in Nevada's U.S. Senate campaign.
The 60-second spot shared with The Associated Press heavily features the father of an Iraq war veteran who died after he was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress syndrome. The father, Tony Bailey of Las Vegas, says Berkley reached out to him after the death and sponsored a bill in his son's name to improve mental health services for veterans.
"The Justin Bailey Act is meant to help veterans. And to know that I can see people that have been helped by my son, I can't imagine being prouder," the father says.
The emotional TV spot barely showcases Berkley, an unusual move for a campaign's introductory ad. She speaks only to say she approves the advertisement, as is required by federal law. She is shown briefly twice. In one image, she writes at a desk, with an American flag in the background. In the final image, she is shown sitting and talking with veterans.
The ad is scheduled to run starting Thursday on broadcast TV stations across northern Nevada, where her Republican rival, U.S. Sen. Dean Heller, is better known. Heller represented the region in the House before he was appointed to the Senate last year following the resignation of Republican Sen. John Ensign.
Berkley's campaign would not say how much was spent on the ad, how long the spot will run on TV or when a second, broader TV ad might hit the airwaves.
Berkley's ad hits the airwaves a month after she launched a statewide campaign to meet with veterans and discuss their issues. Her campaign said veterans' issues are close to her and insisted the ad was not an election gimmick.
Berkley was previously a member of the House Veterans Affairs' Committee and advocated for a new veterans medical center in North Las Vegas. Her father is a World War II veteran and has campaigned by her side.
Last week, Crossroads GPS launched a $320,000 ad campaign throughout Nevada attacking Berkley's record in Washington. The Karl Rove-backed group claimed she supported tax increases and policies that cost jobs.
In March, Berkley tried to persuade Heller to agree to a ban on third-party spending on television and radio advertising, but he declined.
Bailey was a Marine infantryman scheduled to end his tour in 2003, but got a "stop-loss" order that sent him to Iraq until 2004. He had trouble adjusting after discharge and checked himself into the VA hospital in Los Angeles in late November 2006. He overdosed two months later after the hospital staff gave him a supply of medications to administer himself. He was 27.
Berkley was first elected to represent Las Vegas in the U.S. House in 1998. Heller was elected to the House in 2006.
The contest is one of the closest races in the nation and could determine whether Democrats keep their majority in the Senate.