While Titus faces token opposition, GOP race does not lack interest

U.S. Rep. Dina Titus, who has faced plenty of close races in the past, has only one Democratic opponent in the June 10 primary: a former Libertarian and septuagenarian who has lost eight congressional races in Nevada and California.

The Republican primary is far more interesting with two Hispanics — both with compelling stories of rising above poverty in immigrant families — competing to win the GOP nomination to represent the 1st Congressional District, which is centered in urban Las Vegas and is about 43 percent Latino by population.

No matter who wins the GOP primary — Dr. Annettee Teijeiro or attorney José Padilla — the winner will face an uphill battle to beat Titus in the Nov. 4 general election. That’s because the district is about 2-to-1 Democratic by voter registration. Only one Republican, former U.S. Rep. and Sen. John Ensign, R-Nev., has won the district.

Titus won election to the 1st District in 2012, making a comeback after losing a close race in 2010 in the adjacent district.

If re-elected, Titus said one of her top priorities will be veterans benefits and health care as the new Veterans Affairs hospital in North Las Vegas expands its emergency room and VA offices to deal with a huge backlog of claims.

Titus also is focused on ensuring Interstate 11 is built between Las Vegas and Phoenix. She’s a co-sponsor of comprehensive immigration reform, arguing for a pathway to citizenship for immigrants living in the country illegally.

As for President Barack Obama’s health care insurance law, Titus strongly supports it, although she sees the need for some fixes, including extending tax breaks to families as well as individuals.

“The people in my district, they know me,” Titus said. “They know I work hard for them.”

Titus’ Democratic opponent, Herbert Glenn Peters, ran last year in the 1st District as a Republican. In California he ran six times as a Libertarian before he moved to the Silver State in 2011.

Peters said he’s pinning his election hopes this time around on some voters’ unhappiness with Obamacare.

“I was hoping that people are so unhappy with the Affordable Health Care Act that they would not want to vote for Dina Titus,” Peters said. “… The government is incompetent.”

Peters said he’s for a balanced budget, eliminating the minimum wage and going back to the gold standard in backing up U.S. currency. He also wants government to get out of health care and to leave education to the states.

Competing in the GOP primary, Teijeiro has lived in Nevada for 38 years. She began working when she was in high school and put herself through the University of Nevada, Las Vegas and the University of Nevada School of Medicine.

Her father was Cuban and escaped death threats from Fidel Castro’s government in 1959 after he reported corruption, a case of embezzlement involving one of Castro’s buddies, she said. Her mother came from Puerto Rico.

Teijeiro said her top priorities would be improving education and health care. She said people in the construction industry in Nevada, for example, need job retraining. A good education, she said, is the foundation for success.

As for Obamacare, Teijeiro argues it limits access to health care instead of giving people more access.

“I believe the health care law as it stands does not fulfill its original promise,” she said.

Teijeiro said she knows the district better than Padilla. “I grew up in the district,” she said. “I understand it intimately.”

Padilla’s parents emigrated from Honduras, one of the poorest countries in Latin America. He was born in the U.S. and grew up in Texas in a household that lived “paycheck to paycheck,” he said.

“A lot of people living in the district are living like I did,” said Padilla, who moved to Nevada in 2012. “We’re last in education and first in unemployment,” Padilla said, although Rhode Island now has the nation’s worst jobless rate.

Padilla said he’s running for election out of frustration “at politics as usual in Congress,” where partisanship has created massive gridlock with Republicans and Democrats more interested in fighting than compromising on legislation.

Padilla said his first priority would be to boost jobs and diversify Nevada’s economy, particularly in the high-tech sector. He said he also would work on getting rid of many regulations, which he said now hamper everything from health care to trade.

“As a business lawyer, my everyday job is to advise a business on how to deal with regulation and how to negotiate agreements,” Padilla said. “This is a skill directly relevant to the job of a Congressperson.”

On immigration, both Hispanic candidates agree with Titus that the estimated 11 million people living in the country illegally should be given a chance to become legal and one day become U.S. citizens.

Contact Laura Myers at lmyers@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2919. Find her on Twitter: @lmyerslvrj.

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