Titus to announce new bid for Congress

Former Rep. Dina Titus plans to announce on Thursday she is running for the 1st Congressional District covering much of urban Las Vegas, according to a Democratic Party insider.

Titus, a Democrat, would face state Sen. Ruben Kihuen in a highly competitive primary, pitting the veteran lawmaker against a rising Hispanic politician seeking to become Nevada's first Hispanic congressman.

Hispanics make up 43 percent of the district, according to preliminary congressional maps.

While Kihuen, D-Las Vegas, is expected to get strong support from the Hispanic community where he grew up and still lives, Titus is counting on help from groups such as Emily's List, some Democratic supporters in Congress and on voters who backed her as a state senator for 20 years.

Some of those supporters are expected to attend Titus' Thursday announcement, which will come one week after Kihuen announced he would run in the 1st Congressional District.

Titus, 61, lives in the 1st district. She had represented the 3rd Congressional District for two years until she lost the House seat in 2010 to U.S. Rep. Joe Heck, R-Nev. Instead of a rematch with Heck, Titus decided to run for a safer seat closer to home and to her longtime constituents.

Some Democrats in Nevada and in Washington were hoping Titus would compete for the 3rd district to avoid running against a Hispanic candidate who could increase Latino voter involvement and perhaps boost President Barack Obama's chances for re-election.

Yet Titus has rebuffed such entreaties and has said she didn't want to run against Heck in the swing district, where Democrats have a slight voter registration edge. Titus lost by only 1,748 votes in 2010 to Heck, who is expected to get strong financial and other support from the state and national Republican parties and outside groups to hold the House seat in 2012.

The 1st Congressional District seat, on the other hand, is the safest Democratic seat in Nevada. It long has been held by U.S. Rep. Shelley Berkley, D-Nev., who is running for the U.S. Senate in 2012. And under new maps approved by a special state District Court panel, Democrats enjoy a 27 percentage point voter registration advantage over Republicans in the district, or 52 percent to 25 percent.

Vincenta Montoya, chair of the Si Se Puede Latino Democratic Caucus, said the organization already held one house party last Friday to help elect Kihuen. She said the group doesn't endorse candidates in primaries because it is an arm of the Democratic Party. Yet she and other Hispanics already are lining up behind Kihuen in hopes of sending one of their own to Washington.

"Dina may have stronger support nationally, but I think locally Ruben will have a lot of the support," Montoya said. "I believe Ruben has the best chance to win in that district. I wish Dina Titus the best of luck, but I will not be supporting her. I wish she would run somewhere else."

Billy Vassiliadis, a longtime Democratic consultant, said he hasn't been paying much attention to the Southern Nevada congressional races, which will involve several primaries with three seats at stake. He said competition isn't always a bad thing for the party because it can increase excitement.

"A spirited primary draws people in and can be engaging," Vassiliadis said, adding that it helps if the loser supports the winner through the general election to ensure victory. "I would say how the two handle the primary, especially the immediate post-primary, is the most important political piece."

Contact reporter Laura Myers at lmyers@reviewjournal .com or 702-387-2919. Follow @lmyerslvrj on Twitter.