It was an unusually zealous effort for a popular incumbent running in a district carved out for Democrats. Berkley, who predictably won by a landslide, said she was simply making herself available to constituents. Oh, and by the way, she could run for the U.S. Senate in 2012.
With the end of the midterm elections, Nevada politicos already are studying the electoral map to prepare for their next campaigns. The airwaves have been cleared of candidate commercials and the roads may be marked by fewer political signs, but behind the scenes, the tensions of election season continue to flare as candidates try to read the electoral mood and sniff out their rivals' campaign plans.
Most Nevada politicos are keeping mum about their aspirations amid a looming redistricting battle that will help to decide who runs for what office. Nevada is poised to pick up a fourth seat in the U.S. House based on population gains in the U.S. Census.
Still, it's a safe bet that the Senate seat held by Republican John Ensign will be the top prize for Nevada candidates in 2012.
Ensign has said he has more to give the Silver State and will campaign for a third term despite being under federal investigation over an extramarital affair with the wife of a close friend. The scrutiny has eaten up a sizable chunk of his campaign cash. Ensign raised $18,550 and spent more than $550,000 on legal fees in recent months, leaving him with a war chest of just $280,000.
Ensign's vulnerable position could entice others to enter the race, including fellow Republicans.
Sharron Angle lost to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid this month after becoming a national symbol of the tea party movement. She has since addressed a handful of Republican crowds and announced that she is exploring her options for a 2012 run. Those include a challenge against Ensign or a second primary contest against Republican Rep. Dean Heller for his northern Nevada congressional seat. Angle could also go after a state Senate post.
Heller, a conservative who served three terms as Nevada's secretary of state, was heralded by many Republicans as their best hope at defeating Reid this year. Heller ultimately opted to stay out of the race, telling supporters he would rather go to his children's high school sports games than campaign nonstop across the state.
"I still have a young family," he said.
Heller, however, hasn't ruled out a future Senate bid. He is widely expected to challenge Ensign in 2012 if he does not campaign for a third term.
Angle finished behind Heller in 2006. A rematch in a three-way primary against Ensign could divide voters.
"Heller has been saying more conservative things of late that would make it more difficult to defeat him in a Republican primary," said David Fott, an associate professor of political science at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. "On the other hand, her supporters are very devoted to her and that's no small number."
Berkley said she hasn't made up her mind, but concedes that a Senate run is possible.
"I think I would be less than candid if I didn't tell you that people have been approaching me for a quite awhile to make this run," she said. "I will be deciding within the next several months, but either way I hope to be serving the people of Nevada in one capacity or another."
Berkley said her choice will be decided partly by whether or not she thinks she can win. She will also consider which chamber will let her better serve voters.
The ambitions of Angle, Heller and Berkley will create a domino effect that likely will influence the decisions of lesser-known but no less ambitious candidates, such as Republican Lt. Gov. Brian K. Krolicki, Democratic Secretary of State Ross Miller and Republican investment banker John Chachas.
In Las Vegas, Republican Danny Tarkanian has twice run unsuccessfully for the U.S. Senate. He said he hasn't bothered to run for the House because he doubts he can beat Berkley in the heavily Democratic district.
But if Nevada gets a fourth House seat as expected, the Democratic state Legislature could redraw the boundaries of each congressional district to make them more competitive.
A new seat also would increase the likelihood that a newcomer like Tarkanian might get elected to Congress, regardless of who throws their name in for Ensign's job.