Monday, July 18, 2005 | 10:43 a.m.
MINDEN -- Senate Minority Leader Dina Titus of Las Vegas officially entered the race for the Democratic nomination for governor Sunday, saying she was not a tool for any special interest group.
"I think for myself, and nobody owns me," Titus told about 35 supporters in this heavily Republican area.
She said she has fought development interests in preserving Red Rock Canyon in Southern Nevada, protected neighborhoods against more casinos and was opposed by "powerful interest groups" in her unsuccessful plan to freeze property taxes.
Titus, 55, is expected to face Assembly Speaker Richard Perkins, D-Henderson, in the Democratic primary, though Perkins has not yet formally announced his candidacy.
Titus taught Perkins in a political science class at UNLV, which led her to quip that she taught Perkins "everything he knows" -- but didn't teach him everything she knows. She said she gave Perkins a B grade.
Perkins said today he will be formally announcing his gubernatorial bid "sometime next month." He said it would be a mistake for anyone to think he's not going to get into the race. He also said he is getting "positive calls" in response to his fundraising efforts.
Another potential opponent for Titus is Henderson Mayor Jim Gibson. He said he would decide next month whether he will also seek the Democratic nomination for governor.
Asked what she might do differently if she were elected governor, Titus said she would eliminate the "bureaucracy" in the $100 million plan to improve Nevada's public schools.
"This should not be a slush fund, she told reporters.
She was critical of Gov. Kenny Guinn's plan creating a nine-member Commission on Educational Excellence to decide where the money should be spent. She said she would give one-third of the money to schools that are designated as failing, one-third to those close to the failing line and one-third to the good schools.
Titus has been characterized by some critics as being an enemy of rural Nevada, but she said she had the same voting record as former Sen. Lawrence Jacobsen, R-Minden, who served 40 years in the Legislature.
Titus said she has helped get flood relief for Douglas County, of which Minden is the county seat, and fought for property tax relief for Nevadans.
She declined to say how much money she has raised but said it was enough to carry on an aggressive campaign. Titus, in her first e-mail plea for money, collected $8,000 in the first 24 hours, a campaign spokeswoman said.
Titus said she will continue teaching at UNLV until the campaign officially opens next May, and then she will take an unpaid leave of absence. She said she was proud that no student ever filed a complaint against her involving partisanship in instruction.
She was accompanied to the announcement by her press secretary Sean Smith and her Northern Nevada consultant Marlene Lockard, who was chief of staff for former Gov. Richard Bryan.
She had press conferences scheduled for this morning in Reno and for 3 p.m. today at Cambridge Community Center, 3930 Cambridge Street, Room A, in Las Vegas.
Republicans expected to running for governor include Rep. Jim Gibbons, Lt. Gov. Lorraine Hunt and Sen. Bob Beers of Las Vegas. Reno Mayor Bob Cashell and university Chancellor Jim Rodgers also might jump into the GOP race.
As for the GOP front-runner, Gibbons, Titus said, "We don't think you should get your training to be governor in Washington, D.C."
In her prepared remarks, Titus said, "During my administration, government won't be telling you how to live, how to die, how to raise your families, what God to worship, or how to make your most personal, private decisions."
Titus has served in the Senate since 1989 and has been minority leader since 1993. In the 2005 Legislature, she switched her committee assignments to serve on the Senate Finance Committee to get a better understanding of how the state budget is built in preparation for her run for governor, she said.
In the 2005 session, eight of the bills Titus introduced passed and 13 failed. But parts or all of the 13 ended up in other bills.
Her bill on tightening the law on sex offenders was approved. She said she would like to toughen it further by requiring them to wear ankle bracelets, as Martha Stewart had to when she was released from confinement.
She introduced a bill in the 2003 Legislature to require Catholic priests to report and testify about known or suspected child abuse from knowledge gained in the confessional. That bill died. She said she talked with the Catholic bishops both north and south in Nevada and she said they were "doing a good job," in handling the cases of sexual abuse.