Titus expected to announce run for Porter’s House seat

State Sen. Dina Titus, D-Las Vegas, is expected to announce her candidacy for Congress at a rally this evening in Henderson.

The event comes "on the fifth anniversary of President Bush declaring Mission Accomplished" after the invasion of Iraq, a news release announcing the event noted Wednesday.

State and national Democrats have been urging Titus to run against Republican Rep. Jon Porter since former prosecutor Robert Daskas unexpectedly withdrew from the race earlier this week. Titus is scheduled to make her announcement at 5:30 p.m. on the stairs of the Henderson Amphitheatre.

"Sen. Dina Titus always fights for us," the state Democratic Party wrote in an e-mail to members urging them to attend today’s event, which sources said would be Titus’ campaign kickoff. "In Carson City, she protected Red Rock, cracked down on sex offenders and enforced property tax reform to help working families."

A professor of political science at UNLV, Titus was first elected to the state Senate in 1988. In 2006, she was the Democratic nominee for Nevada governor, but lost to Republican Jim Gibbons, 48 percent to 44 percent.

Porter, a former Boulder City councilman, mayor and state senator, has represented Nevada’s 3rd Congressional District since it was created after the 2000 Census. He is seeking a fourth term.

The district includes mostly suburban areas of Clark County. Historically, its voters have been evenly divided between the two political parties, but in recent months Democrats have made dramatic gains. Registered Democrats now outnumber registered Republicans by 22,500, according to the Clark County Election Department.

With Titus starting the campaign late, Porter enjoys a substantial financial advantage. He had more than $1 million in campaign donations in the bank as of March 31, while Titus will be starting from scratch and cannot use funds raised for her state Senate campaigns.

Daskas, a first-time candidate, had more than $450,000 on hand when he suddenly dropped out, citing family reasons, on Monday.

However, national Democrats will be targeting the race: The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee had designated Daskas one of the recipients of its "Red to Blue" fundraising program, a status Titus probably also will enjoy, officials said. Democrats see the seat as one of their top opportunities in the nation this election cycle.

Titus also stands to benefit from her long history in state politics and her active network of grass-roots supporters.

Unlike Daskas, Titus is well known, a fact analysts say is a two-edged sword. While name recognition is a valuable commodity in politics, not all recognition is good recognition.

In the hard-fought gubernatorial race of 2006, Gibbons worked hard to create a negative impression of Titus, most memorably nicknaming her "Dina Tax-us" for her support of various tax increases over the years.

Porter spokesman Matt Leffingwell alluded to that image when asked about Porter’s new probable opponent.

"We will not comment on any potential Democratic opponent until they have selected a nominee," he said. "We do welcome any opponent with a liberal legislative record which will help provide voters with a clear contrast on the issues."

Titus also does not live within the boundaries of the congressional district. In an interview earlier this week, she dismissed the idea that could be held against her, saying, "If that’s the biggest hammer they’ve got to hit me with, I’m going to be fine."

Titus’ main residence lies just outside the district, and much of her Senate district overlaps it. But Porter has a habit of painting his opponents as outsiders, including 2006 challenger Tessa Hafen, who was born in Henderson but had moved away from home to work in Washington, D.C., for Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev.

To run for Congress, Titus will have to give up her seat in the state Senate, which is up for re-election this year. She has been the leader of the Democratic minority in the Senate since 1993.

Senate District 7 leans strongly Democratic. Assemblyman David Parks, D-Las Vegas, said Wednesday he was "giving it very serious consideration."

Should Parks run, his Assembly seat, also strongly Democratic, would come open. Democrats in the Senate also will face a decision about who their new leader should be.

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

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