Political Eye: Titus aiming to help other Democrats

She just might need to change her name to Dina "Berkley Oceguera Obama" Titus.

Titus, a former Democratic congresswoman who lost a competitive U.S. House seat in 2010 to Republican U.S. Rep. Joe Heck, is running this year to return to Congress.

But this time around, Titus is the heavy favorite. She’s running to represent the safest Democratic district in Nevada to replace U.S. Rep. Shelley Berkley, D-Nev., who’s seeking a seat in the U.S. Senate.

Although Titus is campaigning hard to win the 1st Congressional District, she also has been busy touting fellow Democrats in close races in hopes of scoring wins up and down the 2012 ticket.

Last Thursday, Titus took part in a phone bank with women volunteers for President Barack Obama’s campaign in Nevada. They called female voters to tout Obama’s move to expand health insurance, including coverage for birth control. And they criticized Republicans such as GOP presidential front-runner Mitt Romney for wanting "to restrict access to basic women’s health service" by opposing Obama’s original plan to require church-affiliated employers to pay for birth control.

Last Tuesday, Titus talked up her credentials on Latino issues at a Hispanics in Politics breakfast, and she also gave a shout out to Assembly Speaker John Oceguera. The Democrat, who is running against Heck in the 3rd Congressional District, was in the audience.

Titus told the Hispanic group she would campaign for Obama, Oceguera and Berkley, who’s in a whisker-close race with appointed U.S. Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev.

"We want to win big, and we want to put our efforts into helping other candidates," Titus said.

In an interview, Titus said she isn’t taking anything for granted and her priority is to win election in her district, where Democrats far out­number Republicans — 51.4 percent of registered voters versus 26.5 percent. The rest of the electorate is registered as non-partisan or with third parties.

But Titus said her job also is to increase Democratic turnout to help the party return Obama to the White House, maintain control of the U.S. Senate and try to retake control of the House.

"I can do a lot more if I’m in the majority," Titus said. "You’ll see me campaigning everywhere."­­­­

She’ll be working especially hard to boost Hispanic turnout. Latinos made up 15 percent of the electorate in 2010 and 2008 and keyed Obama’s victory as well as Democratic U.S. Sen. Harry Reid’s re-election. State Sen. Ruben Kihuen, D-Las Vegas, dropped out of the race against Titus, disappointing some Hispanics who wanted him to become the first Latino congressman from Nevada. But the freshman senator had too little experience or support to beat Titus.

"I know that I will need your help," Titus told the Hispanic activists.


Titus and state Senate Majority Leader Steven Horsford, who’s running for Nevada’s new 4th Congressional District, are part of the national Democrats’ strategy to retake the House. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee recruited Titus, Horsford and three House candidates from other states to participate in its new "Majority Makers" program.

Those selected Democratic candidates, who are running in what are considered safe House districts, are being asked to donate money to the campaigns of Democrats in closer races.

Republicans immediately criticized Horsford, saying he’s too overconfident for a man running in a new district that covers parts of urban Clark County but also six rural counties that aren’t as Democrat friendly. Overall, however, Democrats hold a voter registration advantage in the 4th Congressional District — 44.5 percent to 34.7 percent for Republicans.

Horsford’s campaign said he’s worked hard to meet voters and traveled to all seven counties in the district, including parts of Clark and Lyon counties and all of White Pine, Mineral, Esmeralda, Nye and Lincoln. He raised $340,000 in the most recent fundraising quarter.

Horsford will likely face stiff GOP competition in the fall, however. Several Republicans are competing in the primary, including Danny Tarkanian, state Sen. Barbara Cegavske, R-Las Vegas, and Las Vegas businessman Dan Schwartz, who isn’t well known but has deep pockets.

Tarkanian’s campaign manager smiled at the idea Horsford might help other Democrats.

"That’s fine with me if he gives away all his money," Tim Williams said.


The day before the "Super Tuesday" Republican presidential contests in 10 states last week, Libertarian White House candidate Gary Johnson was hanging out in Las Vegas.

He was raising money and touring the Red Rock Resort, site of the National Libertarian Convention on May 2-6 where he hopes to win the Libertarian presidential nomination.

The former two-term New Mexico governor became the Libertarian front-runner after he switched parties and dropped out of the GOP presidential race last year. Most voters couldn’t even name the other Libertarian contenders, a group of half a dozen hopefuls running on the margins.

Johnson said he continued his White House bid to give voters fed up with the two main political parties an alternative choice besides the GOP nominee or Obama, a Democrat.

"The agenda that I’m trying to promote is really along the same lines as Ron Paul for the most part, but I don’t see Ron Paul winning the Republican primary," Johnson said in an interview, referring to the Texas congressman. "When he loses, his message goes dead unless I stay in the race."

Both Paul and Johnson want to slash federal spending, legalize drugs, pull back U.S. military forces for a noninterventionist foreign policy, reform immigration and promote civil liberties.

The American Civil Liberties Union’s recent report card on presidential candidates gave Johnson the highest rating, 21 "liberty torches," compared with Paul’s 18. Obama got 16, while Newt Gingrich got four. Both former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania and Mitt Romney, a former Massachusetts governor, got a zero ACLU rating.

Johnson dismisses the idea that he could be a spoiler in the presidential race, drawing more votes from the Republican nominee than Obama and helping the president’s re-election bid.

"I think I take from both parties," Johnson said, adding that Democrats and Republicans are fed up with the status quo. "I happen to believe the Libertarian Party embodies the best of both parties."

The Libertarian Party is said to be the fastest-growing alternative political party in the U.S., although there’s only about 225,000 registered Libertarians nationwide — less than one quarter of 1 percent of registered voters. In Nevada, 6,528 voters are registered Libertarian as of February, a bit more than half of 1 percent among about 1 million registered voters.

Joe Silvestri, chairman of the Nevada Libertarian Party, said his goal is to get enough candidates to run to maintain legal presence on the ballot by gaining at least 1 percent of the vote statewide. Silvestri plans to run for Congress, pursuing the new 4th Congressional District, for example.

The state Libertarian party held its convention at the end of February and endorsed Johnson.

"We’re absolutely committed to electing Libertarians to office," Silvestri said, adding he has few illusions given limited funds and support. "I’m realistic about what our candidates can do. We’re not going to elect a Libertarian president. But we want to give people a true third party."

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

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