The two major candidates for Nevada's 3rd Congressional District, Democrat Dina Titus and Republican Joe Heck, squared off in a feisty debate on Monday.
The event at Congregation Ner Tamid in Henderson was the second of four Titus-Heck debates scheduled over six days.
The tone was lively but good-natured, with both Titus and Heck rattling off facts and zingers to make points and moderator Jon Ralston using humor and a sharp tongue to keep the conversation flowing.
Although the candidates didn't break any real new ground, each showed a good command of their positions and neither stumbled.
The close contest reflected the closeness of a race that is statistically tied, according to public polls.
Early on, incumbent Titus sought to paint challenger Heck as seeking to roll back progress on the economy, health care and job creation.
She said Congress and the administration of President Barack Obama created or saved thousands of jobs with the $787 billion American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, aka, the stimulus bill.
She said the economy lost 800,000 jobs the month she took office in January 2009, and that pace has slowed since.
"We don't want to go back to then," Titus said. "We need to continue to move forward, not go back to the failed policies that got us in this fix in the first place."
Heck cited economic analyses he said showed the stimulus only created a few hundred construction jobs in Nevada. He said it contained too much spending on "welfare" type programs and should have been more focused on building infrastructure, such as roads and bridges, to create jobs.
"If you were going to have a stimulus, the money should have been on a big infrastructure development program," Heck said.
On health care, Titus criticized Heck for a vote he cast as a state senator in opposition to mandates for specific measures to prevent cervical and prostate cancer.
Titus supporters have aired ads saying Heck voted against a vaccine for cervical cancer, which nonpartisan fact checkers have called false.
Heck, a physician, defended the votes by saying his opposition was to specific insurance mandates because they drive up the cost of care and the mandates in question were for a vaccine that was already covered by 95 percent of policies.
"The cost of every mandate is passed on to the individual who pays premiums," Heck said.
Titus countered by saying covering preventative medicine with insurance saves money.
"You don't mandate every disease, but you do mandate preventative care. We know preventative care is more humane, but it is also less expensive."
Titus also chided Heck after he said he wouldn't have voted for the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, but supported some provisions such as one to prevent insurance companies from dropping policy holders after they get sick.
"He likes all the good parts. Who doesn't?" Titus said.
The audience filled most of the main part of the synagogue, which has a capacity of 350, and spilled into an overflow area.
The congressional debate was the third of three for the evening.
The first was between incumbent state Sen. Joyce Woodhouse, D-Las Vegas and her Republican challenger, Michael Roberson.
The second was between Democrat Mary Beth Scow and Republican Douglas Bell, who are seeking Clark County Commission Seat G, which is being vacated by Democrat Rory Reid, who is running for governor.
Titus and Heck will debate again at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday at Temple Beth Sholom in Las Vegas and at 8 p.m. Thursday on Vegas PBS, right after the Harry Reid-Sharron Angle Senate debate.
Contact Benjamin Spillman at bspillman@review journal.com or 702-477-3861.