A matchup brewing for months between two congressional candidates supplied the opening salvos for a series of debates that pitted political rivals against each other Monday.
Republicans and Democrats vying for seats in Congress, the state Senate and the Clark County Commission squared off against each other at an event hosted by Congregation Ner Tamid. The debates took place in the theater of the Clark County Library, 1401 E. Flamingo Road.
Supporters of every camp packed the 400-seat auditorium and gathered in the lobby.
State Sen. Dina Titus, a Democrat, and Rep. Jon Porter, R-Nev., wasted little time airing their political differences, especially on energy.
Titus accused Porter of being a "rubber stamp for President Bush's failed policies" and being in the oil companies' pocket because of the donations he has taken.
"There's no reason the oil companies should be making record profits -- $40 billion -- at a time when people are hurting," Titus said.
Energy problems call for more than giving massive tax breaks and incentives to oil companies, Titus said.
Porter suggested Titus was being hypocritical. He said she took thousands of dollars from Enron while the company was pushing up power prices.
Titus, he said, switched her stance on offshore drilling and now supports it.
"I'm glad my opponent decided to follow my suggestion to explore for energy," Porter said.
Titus denied ever opposing offshore drilling and said it is just one part of the solution.
Speculation on the oil market is driving up fuel prices and must be curbed, she said. Also, renewable energy must be embraced, she said.
"We have to get off our addiction to oil," she said. "Oil is finite."
Porter said he has been a strong supporter of renewable energy and argued that it is just one piece of the puzzle. The country also must develop biodiesel and get oil where it can, he said.
"We need to do it all," Porter said. "We need American energy. We need it now."
The two candidates showed more similarities on foreign policy and immigration but tried to stress differences.
Both said troops should be withdrawn cautiously from Iraq, and neither offered a target date.
Candidates for state Senate District 6 focused much of their debate on health care.
Shirley Breeden, a Democrat, said Sen. Joe Heck, the Republican incumbent, voted against state funding for some preventive programs, such as screening for certain cancers. That is hard to understand, she said, given that Heck is a doctor.
Preventive care will reduce medical costs by detecting diseases early, Breeden said. "I don't know why he, being a medical physician, would oppose that."
Heck countered that many people bemoan rising health care costs yet want to impose mandates to require insurers to cover more treatments.
Heck said he was one of the first elected leaders to respond to the hepatitis C crisis.
"I have worked across party lines to make a better Nevada," he said.
Sen. Bob Beers, a Republican, debated Democratic challenger Allison Copening mainly about education.
Copening suggested starting a lottery system to fund education, even if it stirs opposition in the gaming industry.
"It's not going to make friends in gaming," she said, "but will put books on the table."
Beers argued that government should not compete with private industry. California's lottery, he said, shows how flawed a lottery system can become.
Copening accused Beers of not working well with others, especially Democrats. He was one of the "mean 15" that opposed all tax increases in 2003, she said.
Beers countered that he was one of the "fearless 15" who stood their ground on opposing taxes, believing that was what his constituents wanted.
With the forum running out of time, County Commission candidates did little debating and instead mostly promoted themselves.
The Republican opponents for Larry Brown and incumbent Lawrence Weekly, both Democrats, did not attend the debate.
Steve Sisolak, a Democrat, and Brian Scroggins, a Republican, are vying for the District A seat. Democratic incumbent Tom Collins and Republican challenger Gary Hosea are competing in District B.
Hosea said Collins' negative positions on women's issues have hurt the Democratic Party. He called Collins a product of a school system that is now bankrupt.
Hosea said Collins approved $50,000 for a consultant's report that did not go far enough in critiquing flawed county building inspections.
Collins did not respond to Hosea's attacks and said that he was seeking re-election because he loved the community and loved his job.
Contact reporter Scott Wyland at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-455-4519.