Porter kicks off re-election bid against Dina Titus

Rep. Jon Porter kicked off his re-election campaign Wednesday, saying his bid for a fourth term in Congress will be about a record of “finding solutions to problems.”

Before a group of about 80 supporters at the newly constructed permanent building for the Nevada State College in Henderson, Porter touted the government projects he helped along during his years as a Boulder City councilman and mayor, Nevada state senator and member of Congress, from the college to the Southern Nevada Water Authority to Boulder City’s solar power generating plant.

“I was there, and it was about finding solutions to problems and bringing parties together,” Porter said.

The 53-year-old Republican didn’t mention his general election opponent, Democratic state Sen. Dina Titus, in his 20-minute speech, except to approvingly acknowledge an audience member’s shout of “Dina Taxes,” the nickname Gov. Jim Gibbons pinned on Titus during their gubernatorial fight two years ago.

Porter is thought to be facing his toughest challenge yet from Titus, an outspoken former Democratic leader in the state’s upper house. The ground in the 3rd Congressional District has shifted under Porter’s feet: Once composed of about the same number of Republicans and Democrats, the suburban Clark County district now is home to about 25,000 more Democratic than Republican registered voters.

Porter and Titus won their respective primaries on Tuesday by wide margins, making official the general election matchup that has been anticipated since Titus got into the race in May.

In what analysts see as a tough election year for Republicans, Porter has seemed to take more moderate stances on legislation of late, a trend he says has to do with the bills at hand rather than a politically calculated shift. On Wednesday, he signaled that he’ll make his pitch to voters as a pragmatist and compromiser who gets things done outside partisan antagonisms.

He offered the college, a four-year institution that opened its doors in 2002, as an example of something he worked on in the Legislature across party lines. The college has been controversial, with critics questioning whether it is a needed supplement to the state’s public universities and two-year colleges, especially in budget-crunch times.

He also blasted the Democratic Congress and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi for allowing representatives to take a five-week vacation rather than passing energy legislation. “I personally think that Congress ought to be in session today, and not on vacation,” he said.

Between resorts cutting back on construction and tourists reluctant to drive here, “We are experiencing our own Las Vegas recession because of the lack of a comprehensive energy plan,” Porter said.

The solution, he said, should include conservation, alternative energy, and increased domestic exploration, including drilling for oil offshore and in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska.

Titus supports offshore drilling with conditions but opposes drilling in the refuge.

In a question-and-answer session with reporters after his speech, Porter said Titus “ought to be calling on Nancy (Pelosi) to bring Congress back into session, because as we drive down the street to this great college, there are businesses with ‘For Sale’ signs on them, there are casinos and the resort industry laying off people. There is no more important issue than energy right now, which affects our economy and jobs.”

Porter also ridiculed Titus for living just outside the boundaries of the 3rd District, noting that she couldn’t vote for herself in Tuesday’s primary. “I was able to vote for myself because I live in the district,” he said. “There’s a huge difference. I’m not sure who she voted for, because she doesn’t live in the district.”

A spokesman for Titus said Republicans such as Porter, who was in Washington on Friday and participated in the GOP’s “shadow session” on the out-of-session House floor, are the ones who have blocked energy reform.

“Dina has laid out her comprehensive energy plan,” Andrew Stoddard said. “She believes we need to have solutions, not gimmicks. That involves working in a bipartisan manner to come up with a comprehensive plan. The Republicans had the House, the Senate and the presidency for six years and came up with no real energy policy.”

As for Titus’ residency, Stoddard noted that the state Senate district she has represented for 20 years includes about 45,000 voters in the 3rd District and said that the district line was intentionally drawn to exclude her house during 2001’s redistricting battle.

“Dina Titus might be a block outside of the district since Jon Porter and his Republican friends redrew the map at taxpayer expense during a special session, but the price of gas is the same on either side of the district line,” he said.

Porter’s speech was attended by other local Republican officials, such as Clark County Commissioner Bruce Woodbury and state Sen. Joe Heck, and by loyalists like Alfred and Toni Valdez of Henderson.

The Valdezes, both in their 70s, have been volunteering on Porter’s campaigns since he ran against Rep. Shelley Berkley in 2000. “He knows what he’s doing,” Toni Valdez said. “He’s doing the right things, working for the people. He’s ours.”

Republicans might be having tough times, she said, but some are still standing. “I even still like Bush!” she said.

Alfred Valdez added, “If the Democrats were to win this election, I think it would be really bad for this country. They want to raise taxes, increase the size of government and other near-socialist programs.”

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

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