Not every lesser-known candidate will remain on the political fringe

Thinking back over the threats I’ve received as a journalist, one type of person tends to lead the pack — a candidate without any chance of winning and ignored by the news media.

Sometimes these candidates are quirky enough to get some press coverage. Rhinestone Cowboy. The hooker du jour running for sheriff. The guy who ran as "God Almighty."

Others, like perennial candidate Hilary Milko, become angry when the media discount them.

In the 1990s, Milko, a Republican, ran for everything. Governor. Congress. Las Vegas mayor. President.

Before he died in 2007 at age 50, he and I had a few discussions about why he was one of the candidates listed behind the frontrunners as "and others." He didn’t grasp that candidates without finances, party backing or prior experience aren’t viable.

After Milko threatened me and the city editor who supported my news judgment, he was banned from the Las Vegas Review-Journal newsroom.

Once, I found him hovering outside the ladies room after hours. As he was escorted out, he said he was there to buy an ad — after the ad department had closed.

He made me uneasy, particularly when I watched him use his role as "Republican candidate" to get into events with prominent Republicans visiting Las Vegas. I feared he was unstable.

He was actually a congressional candidate (781 Republicans voted for him) when he was charged in 1998, and later convicted, of violating a child custody order, burglary and home invasion.

During the trial he said he knew who killed John F. Kennedy Jr. and Princess Diana and said there were nuclear bombs underneath the courthouse. Until he was convicted of a felony and lost his right to run for office, he was planning to run again for president.

Anyway, Milko and others who file without any chance of winning are part of our primary system, and he’s not the only fringe candidate who called and promised to "get you" for ignoring his candidacy.

In a recent column, I referred to some of the Republicans running for the U.S. Senate as "a couple of others I couldn’t pick out of a line-up."

Instead of taking offense, Dr. Robin Titus called and asked to meet with me, where she proceeded to prove she’s no Hilary Milko but instead is a smart, articulate, passionate, enthusiastic and capable candidate, who could be an asset to the Republicans … in the Assembly. Even she concedes she’s unlikely to become the GOP nominee to challenge U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.

Right now the two leading GOP contenders are former state Sen. Sue Lowden and businessman Danny Tarkanian. In the latest R-J poll, they’re the only ones out of nine announced contenders who even poll in the double digits at 23 and 21 percent respectively. (Washington Post columnist Chris Cillizza discounted all nine Republicans as "b-listers" at best.)

Why was Titus, a physician from Wellington, a town with 2,500 people in Lyon County, wasting her time running for something she can’t possibly win?

She’s running to learn.

"I won’t file in March if I don’t have the money. We don’t want to split the vote." She’s raised $10,000 and said if she doesn’t have $100,000 to report in January, she won’t file.

Titus seemed like a natural for the Assembly, but that job is now held by fellow Republican Tom Grady of Yerington, a patient and friend, and she won’t run in a GOP primary against him. At this point, Grady says he’ll run again.

Titus is using this experience as a Senate candidate to learn how to market herself. When her name was mentioned specifically in the R-J recently, instead of being grouped as "and others," she was cheered. But not for long.

On Sunday, in one story and a column in the Las Vegas Sun, Titus didn’t merit a mention. In the R-J’s poll, drawing 1 percent of the vote shoves her back to "and others."

Titus proves not every minor candidate is a Hilary Milko, running for self-aggrandizement. If this helps her learn politics and she eventually wins a seat in the Assembly, she’s not wasting her time.

Despite her best efforts, Titus remains trapped in the "and others" group. But she’s not alone.

Jane Ann Morrison’s column appears Monday, Thursday and Saturday. E-mail her at or call (702) 383-0275. She also blogs at

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