Porter and Titus trade barbs over economy, energy in debate

Rep. Jon Porter accused his challenger, state Sen. Dina Titus, of changing political positions, while Titus said Porter is “part of the problem” that has led to the nation’s troubles in a televised debate Wednesday.

Porter, a Republican seeking a fourth term in Congress, and Titus, his Democratic opponent, sparred over energy, the economy and their respective records in the debate, which was recorded in Las Vegas Wednesday afternoon and scheduled to air at 10 p.m. on KLAS-TV, Channel 8.

Porter voted for both the original $700 billion Wall Street bailout that narrowly failed in the House of Representatives on Sept. 29 and a second, more expensive version that passed later that week. Titus said she would have opposed the first version but supported the second because of the “sweeteners” it included, such as tax breaks Nevadans could use.

Porter cast his votes as difficult but consistent. “She was against it; then she was for it,” he said. “In tough times like this, we need to have solid leadership that takes the initiative with tough decisions.”

Titus said the original bill was too generous to banks but failed to help the middle class. “He was in a rush to bail out Wall Street,” she said of Porter.

She also charged that it was Porter who was the true flip-flopper on issues such as the minimum wage, children’s health insurance and support for renewable energy.

Porter said he voted against proposed expansions of the State Children’s Health Insurance Program that “penalized Nevada seniors” by taking funds from the Medicare Advantage program. He accused Titus of supporting such a move.

Titus refused to take a position on those previous pieces of federal legislation, instead highlighting her work in the state Senate to create the framework for Nevada to implement the program that has provided insurance for millions of low-income children nationwide.

“I was not in Congress,” she said when the moderators, Channel 8’s George Knapp and TV host and columnist Jon Ralston, pressed her on how she would have voted. “I think we need to increase funding for health insurance for children.”

Titus accused Porter of supporting privatization of Social Security, which he denied. He said he was “absolutely opposed” to privatization.

Porter pointed to Titus’ current statements in support of expanding offshore oil drilling as another change of position. In the Legislature, she voted against a resolution in support of drilling.

Titus said she tried at the time to change the resolution to support expansion of renewable energy because that was more relevant to Nevada. She maintained she has always supported both renewables and drilling, as Porter does.

Titus also pointed to Porter’s votes to give tax breaks to oil companies rather than expand alternative energy. He said the breaks in question were incentives for U.S. business.

The candidates were pressed to answer for television ads airing on their behalf. A commercial paid for by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee accuses Porter of taking contributions from financial interests, then voting for “billions in tax breaks” for the industry.

By that standard, plenty of Democrats also are bought and paid for by Wall Street, the moderators noted. “The point is that when you take contributions and then do the bidding of those industries, that’s a lot different than when those industries contribute to you because you’re the incumbent and then you vote against them,” Titus retorted.

Porter, meanwhile, was called to account for an ad by his campaign that accuses Titus of “double-dipping.” The double-dipping accusation comes from a few days when Titus attended meetings in Carson City before her unpaid leave from her job as a professor at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, began.

Titus decried the ad as negative campaigning. “I wonder what happened to the Jon Porter I used to know,” she said. Porter served with Titus in the state Senate before he was elected to represent the 3rd Congressional District in 2002.

“Every semester that I am in the Legislature I take a leave of absence,” Titus said.

Contact reporter Molly Ball at mball @reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2919.

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