Bernstein all but in race

Barring strong family opposition, Las Vegas lawyer Ed Bernstein says he's in the race for Richard Bryan's U.S. Senate seat.

The 50-year-old Bernstein was stumping through Northern Nevada on Wednesday to see what kind of support he could generate.

Bernstein said there are two options weighing on his decision to run for Senate: family and public.

He said he's having little of the difficulty raising money that forced Attorney General Frankie Sue Del Papa to pull out.

Bryan announced his retirement at the end of December 2000. Republican John Ensign, also of Las Vegas, and fresh from a defeat at the hands of Sen. Harry Reid, announced he was running the next day after last year's elections.

Bernstein, who has built a successful, high profile law practice defending personal injury and other cases, said he knows the opposition will try to paint him as an "ambulance chaser."

"But what do I do is a very noble thing," he said. "I keep the system in check."

In the process, he has won millions for clients fighting insurance, health and other corporations.

He said he and Ensign will offer voters a very clear choice and that he believes voters will see a lot more that they like in Bernstein rather than in Ensign.

Bernstein said he has a long record of supporting women's rights and "choice." Through his wife, who is Cuban, he said he has an equal record on Hispanic issues.

He said he is very concerned about environmental issues, that he believes government should take care of "the big picture issues" and not interfere in people's lives or personal choices.

He said the two may have similarities on business issues, "but when it comes to social issues, we're night and day."

He said the biggest difference in his mind is that he is his own man.

"When John Ensign was in Congress, he did what Newt Gingrich told him to," said Bernstein. "You may be a fan of Newt or not but I think we need people in Congress who can think for themselves."

"I'm at a stage in my life where I'll do what I think is right."

Ensign, he said, will be damaged by his own voting record which he intends to bring out during the campaign.

He said there is no doubt Ensign will raise up to $5 million for the race but that he can raise substantial amounts of cash himself.

Unlike many who enter politics, he said he enjoys talking to potential donors and has no problem asking them for contributions.

He said when he first considered raising money he called 130 people to ask if he should run asks for donations. Of that and that 129 of them gave $2,000.

Bernstein said he may announce his candidacy at a later date. He has only formed an exploratory committee to see the viability of his candidacy.


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