When U.S. Rep. Dina Titus of Nevada gets down to work, she parks herself behind a piece of history.
At her district office in Las Vegas, Titus sits at the desk that once belonged to U.S. Sen. Howard Cannon, also a Democrat, in Washington, D.C. He served Nevada in the Senate from 1959 until he was upset in his bid for a fifth term in 1982 by Republican Chic Hecht.
Departing senators were allowed to take their desks with them, and Cannon did. When he died at age 90 in 2002, it was inherited by his daughter Nancy Downey of Genoa .
Downey loaned the desk to Titus when the lawmaker served in Congress in 2009-10, and again when the Las Vegas Democrat was elected this past November.
“She wanted me to have it, and I am just so honored,” Titus said. “It fits in the office perfectly.”
The now-antique mahogany desk with leather trim and footrest was standard issue in the Senate”;s Russell Building, where Cannon had his office. Some say the piece dates to when the building opened in 1909.
Cannon, a troop carrier pilot in World War II, served through the presidencies of John Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson, Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter, and is perhaps best known as an architect of airline deregulation when he headed the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee in the late 1970s.
Titus, a former government professor at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas and longtime Democratic leader in the state Senate, served a faculty internship on Cannon”;s staff in Washington in the spring semester of 1982, and remained friends with him and his family afterward.
The senator, a Mormon who was born in St. George, Utah, had taken an interest in atomic weapons testing, and particularly early reports of atmospheric fallout poisoning “downwinders” in Utah and beyond. In what turned out to be some of his final months in office, he assigned Titus to research the topic.
“The more research I did on it, the more interested I became, and then it became something I did academic research on after I left his office,” Titus said. “Bombs in the Backyard,” her book on atomic testing and nuclear policy issues, ultimately was published in 1986.
— Steve Tetreault
FUN WITH THE BIG GUYS
Anyone who has listened to Rep. Mark Amodei, R-Nev., knows no one in Nevada politics can top him for his spontaneous sense of humor. Amodei constantly cracks jokes and never tries to be politically correct.
Take Aug. 19 at Lake Tahoe when former Democratic Vice President Al Gore addressed 800 people at the annual Tahoe Summit in Incline Village. In acknowledging the speakers, Gore correctly pronounced Amodei”;s last name, something that generally never happens.
Amodei was so taken by Gore that he joked that if he had the chance again, he would vote for Gore to be president.
“I feel bad about not voting for him,” he quipped.
Then he proceeded to verbally demolish another of the top attendees, California Gov. Jerry Brown, a Democrat. Amodei remembered when he attended law school in Sacramento in the early 1980s that he followed Brown”;s career.
“You looked happier then,” he told the governor.
Brown, now 75, was governor of California in 1975-83 and then won again in 2011. He showed no emotion following Amodei”;s comment and sat stoically during the summit. Then in a news conference, Brown debated with members of the California media. He never was seen showing a smile.
Governor Moonbeam, he wasn”;t, but more Governor Unhappy.
The forum was held at Sand Harbor State Park. Amodei pointed out that as a young man he had a job cleaning the toilets there, and that they were always clean during his tenure.
— Ed Vogel
SMITH becomes group”;s president
State Sen. Debbie Smith, D-Sparks, has become president-elect of the National Conference of State Legislatures.
The bipartisan organization serves the nation”;s 7,383 state lawmakers and more than 20,000 legislative staff.
The announcement came at the group”;s legislative summit in Atlanta last week.
Smith will become president next year at the 2014 Legislative Summit in Minneapolis, Minn., succeeding Oregon Sen. Bruce Star, a Republican.
The conference alternates leadership between the two parties each year. Over the past year, Smith has served as vice president.
“I am honored to serve my colleagues across the country as president-elect of this great organization,” Smith said. “NCSL makes a big difference in the lives of legislators and legislative staff, allowing us to provide the best service possible to our constituents.”
Last year, Smith became the first Nevada legislator to serve as an officer on the organization”;s 60-member executive committee when she was elected vice president.
She was first elected to the Assembly in 2000, representing Nevada”;s 30th District. In 2012, she was elected to the state Senate, representing the 13th District.
Smith has already announced she will run for re-election in 2014.
Smith lives in Sparks with her husband, Greg. They have three children and two granddaughters.
— Sean Whaley
Contact Stephens Washington Bureau Chief Steve Tetreault at email@example.com or 202-783-1760. Follow him on Twitter @STetreaultDC. Contact Capital Bureau Chief Ed Vogel at firstname.lastname@example.org or 775-687-3901. Contact Capital Bureau reporter Sean Whaley at email@example.com or 775-687-3900. Follow him on Twitter @seanw801.