Race opens for Bernstein, Ensign

CARSON CITY, Nev. (AP) - Recent announcement speeches by U.S. Senate candidates John Ensign and Ed Bernstein show styles as different as their positions on key issues.

Ensign opted for a gym packed with more than 500 supporters in announcing March 6. The conservative Republican was introduced by Nevada Gov. Kenny Guinn and prominent elected officials dotted his crowd, intended to show his establishment backing.

Democrat Bernstein chose a mobile home park with about 60 people when he announced March 13. He was introduced by injured worker David Emerick, in efforts to demonstrate his willingness to fight for the little guy.

After their prepared speeches, both were asked about their positions, their philosophies and spiritual beliefs.

Their answers pointed out differences in the two candidates and framed some of the issues they'll be debating between now and Nov. 7.

The candidates differ on abortion and on who would be most effective in keeping nuclear waste from coming to Nevada. And Ensign's affiliation with Promise Keepers could become an issue.

Ensign, an evangelical Christian, has participated in mass rallies held by the conservative, men-only Christian group. During two U.S. House terms, he had a 100 percent approval record from the Christian Coalition.

Bernstein is Jewish and also studies Eastern religions. Asked whether he'd make Promise Keepers an issue, he said, ''I stand for tolerance, and that's what I embrace.''

''I'm in favor of groups that tolerate and open themselves up to all peoples, so if there is a group that treats women differently than men, then I am not very happy with that, being the father of three daughters.''

Bernstein also has said people need to decide for themselves whether Promise Keepers is a religious cult, adding, ''The only criticism I have of groups like that is whether they install their philosophies into government.''

Ensign says, ''I think it's wrong to make religion an issue in campaigns, I thought we learned from John F. Kennedy. I respect Ed Bernstein's religion, I hope he respects mine and we leave it at that. ... I'll never attack my opponent's religion, ever, and I hope he does the same.''

Promise Keepers is ''absolutely not'' anti-woman, he said, adding that it's ''an absolutely false statement'' to suggest that the group encourages families to stay together despite abuse and domestic violence.

Regarding abortion, Ensign said, ''Everybody knows my position, but there is very little you can do about abortion at the federal level. Bernstein's on the wrong side of this issue. Partial birth abortion, federal funding and parental notification, those are the only things you can do anything about.''

Bernstein, who supports abortion rights, said, ''I've been listening to people for the several months I've been talking about running. I heard that people in Nevada care about a woman's right to choose.''

Bernstein also is in favor of preserving a woman's right to a partial birth abortion if necessary for the health of the mother. He supports federal funding for abortion, would vote against requiring girls to notify their parents before having an abortion, but would want some counseling and education provided to the girl.

''I am in the mainstream, he's in the extreme,'' Bernstein said of Ensign.

When it comes to nuclear waste, both men promise to be fighters and are flamboyant in their descriptions of how they would fight.

''If you elect me to the United State Senate, I promise to spend every day, every minute, fighting to keep nuclear waste from coming to Nevada. And if that fight pits me against my own party, then so be it,'' Ensign said.

Ensign said he believes as a senator, he can help get support from other Republican senators and help Democratic Sen. Harry Reid, who narrowly defeated Ensign two years ago, block legislation to bring nuclear waste to Nevada.

Bernstein said, ''It's going to take a fighter like Ed Bernstein, with my experience, to stop Republicans in Washington who want to dump nuclear waste in our back yard. I will never waver on this, and if necessary, the train will run me over before I allow this garbage in our state.''


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