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Titus vows to keep fighting

A week after her close defeat, Rep. Dina Titus sounded Monday like a woman plotting her political comeback with a possible return to Washington in mind.

"It’s in my nature to keep fighting, and I do have more public service to give," Titus said in an interview . "I’m not going quietly into that good night."

Titus, a freshman congresswoman, lost Nov. 2 to Joe Heck by only 1,922 votes as Republicans nationwide swept dozens of Democrats from office and took control of the House.

The midterm election was seen as a rejection of President Barack Obama’s policies and the Democratic Party agenda by voters suffering from an economic recession that began during President George W. Bush’s administration. Democrats also lost a half-dozen seats in the Senate but maintained control.

"People wanted change, and they didn’t get it fast enough," said Titus, whose constituents were the hardest hit nationwide by home foreclosures, bankruptcies and record high unemployment.

Titus noted that both conservative "blue dog Democrats" and more liberal members of her party were rejected at the ballot box, whether or not they supported Obama’s programs, including the divisive new health care reform law that Titus ended up backing despite initial concerns.

"It was the national economy, the national issues, the national character" of the election that led to her defeat and that of Democrats, Titus said. "If you look at the votes and the people who were defeated, the votes on particular issues didn’t seem to make any difference. I think it was a perfect storm. It was a tough year for Democrats. My legislative record didn’t seem to matter."

Now that Republicans are in charge of the House, Titus said they’re going to have to deliver on big promises to bring down the deficit and government spending while cutting taxes.

"Let’s see what they can do," Titus said, predicting the next Congress will probably suffer from partisan gridlock in the run-up to the 2012 election cycle, making it tough to accomplish much.

Meantime, Obama will "kick into campaign mode" and get more active, including in Nevada because of its early presidential caucuses, which may help Democrats such as Titus if she’s a candidate.

Titus couldn’t say for sure whether she’s contemplating another congressional run, although there will probably be plenty of opportunities with Nevada expecting to get a fourth seat.

Also, Rep. Shelley Berkley, D-Nev., may seek Republican U.S. Sen. John Ensign’s seat, something Titus also could consider if Berkley decides to run for re-election to her safe Democratic seat.

"We’re keeping all the options open," Titus said, adding that she won’t make any announcements until after the Nevada Legislature redraws all the congressional districts by June or so next year. "I’m keeping an open pathway. … That’s one of the interesting things about politics — it can turn on a dime."

Titus’ recent political career is testament to that. She was hastily recruited in 2008 to run against GOP Rep. Jon Porter after the Democrats’ top candidate, Clark County prosecutor Robert Daskas, dropped out.

She was swept into office thanks partly to a Democratic Party registration drive to elect Obama.

Previously, Titus lost a 2006 gubernatorial bid to GOP Gov. Jim Gibbons, who is now on his way out. She also spent 20 years in the state Senate, serving as minority leader from 1993 to 2009.

In the past two years, Titus focused mostly on constituency duties, holding home foreclosure workshops and helping Nevadans get help from banks and government services. Her office handled more than 4,000 cases, and Titus said she was working hard to close out as many as possible.

"We’re trying to wrap up as many cases as we can," she said from her office, where she was back at work after going away for the weekend with her husband. "I’m very proud of what we got done."

Titus also is preparing for the lame- duck session of Congress that starts next week.

She’s pushing for lawmakers to make the Bush-era tax cuts permanent for the middle class and to extend them for the wealthy for a year or two to help spur the economy.

Not all Democrats favor extending the tax cuts for all income levels, however, and the issue could remain unresolved until Republicans take control of the House in January.

Before she leaves office, Titus also wants to push for tax deductions for teachers who spend their own money for class supplies.

Although she lost, Titus said that she had no regrets about how she ran her campaign and that she didn’t fault the Democratic Party, Obama or House Speaker Nancy Pelosi for not helping her more.

Instead, she blamed outside spending against her for helping Heck thanks, in part, to a U.S. Supreme Court decision that opened the doors to unchecked donations. About $6.8 million was spent by outside groups in her Congressional District 3 race, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

"You certainly can’t fault my campaign team," Titus said, calling the slim loss "kind of bittersweet" because she came so close to defying the political odds. "I don’t have any regrets."

For now, Titus plans to go back to teaching political science this spring at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. From there, she’ll be well positioned to watch how 2012 shapes up.

"We’re certainly going to be watching the redistricting and watching the national trends," Titus said, adding that she doesn’t think the close election gave Republicans a free pass. "It certainly wasn’t a mandate for the other side. Damn near as many people voted for our side."

Contact Laura Myers at lmyers@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2919.

 

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