Democrats have had their sights set on Nevada’s 3rd Congressional District since it was created after the 2000 Census.
So far, though, Republican Jon Porter — a former state lawmaker and mayor of Boulder City — has managed to knock off three Democratic challengers and hold the seat for six years.
But thanks to a massive voter registration push, Democrats now hold a slight advantage in the district. And given that many pundits believe the 2008 election could be a boondoggle for Republicans — the president’s poll numbers continue to hover in record-low territory — Rep. Porter was tagged with the dreaded "vulnerable" label.
Prominent Democrats went about recruiting a candidate to oust Rep. Porter and eventually settled on Robert Daskas, a Clark County prosecutor. He left his job and took up the challenge, raising almost a half-million dollars as of March 31.
He gave his first major policy speech earlier this month, embracing a host of targeted tax breaks and advocating that Congress let many of President Bush’s tax cuts expire.
And then he quit.
Mr. Daskas dropped out of the race on Monday. He cited "family considerations."
With only two weeks until the filing deadline, Democrats tried to remain upbeat, immediately glomming onto state Senate Minority Leader Dina Titus, who moonlights as a UNLV political science professor, as a potential replacement.
"Dina Titus would be an excellent candidate with unparalleled experience and support from people in Nevada’s 3rd Congressional District," said Rep. Chris Van Hollen, chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.
Sen. Titus seemed to enjoy the attention.
"I’m seriously considering it," she said. "I’m going to make this decision fast. … If I’m going to do this, I’d have to do it gangbusters because I’d be starting late."
But Sen. Titus brings a fair amount of baggage.
She was the Democratic candidate for governor in 2006, facing Republican Jim Gibbons, who was caught up in a blizzard of bad press after being accused of assaulting a woman who refused his advances. Yet she still lost by 4 percentage points — although she did outpoll Mr. Gibbons in the 3rd Congressional District, which encompasses mostly suburban areas of Clark County.
In addition, Sen. Titus doesn’t currently live in the district and would be at a substantial fundraising disadvantage. She also has an extensive, 20-year liberal track record in Carson City, which Rep. Porter and the GOP will have no problem mining. They’ve already started.
"Dina Titus has a long record of raising taxes on the people of Nevada," said a spokesman for the Republican National Committee. "Surely she doesn’t want to drag that record out again."
Perhaps. But that doesn’t mean the RNC and Rep. Porter should underestimate Sen. Titus. She’s a fighter who isn’t afraid to stand up for what she believes in. She has extensive experience in Nevada politics and the intelligence and presence to make things difficult for any opponent.
Sen. Titus says she’ll decide by the end of the week. There’s no question this Democratic stumble benefits Rep. Porter. But he shouldn’t rest easy.