Sunday, May 11, 2008 | 2 a.m.
The campaign for Nevada’s 3rd Congressional District is just beginning, as Republican Rep. Jon Porter and Democratic state Sen. Dina Titus prepare to face off in what will be one of the most competitive races in the country.
- Republican Rep. Jon Porter on the theme of his campaign.
- Porter talks about oil prices.
- Porter on the war in Iraq.
- Democratic state Sen. Dina Titus on the theme of her campaign.
- Titus talks about issues she wants to address.
- Titus talks about energy.
Both national parties have targeted the pinwheel-shaped district, which includes most of Clark County and its growing suburbs. Evenly split in voter registration two years ago, the district now sports a significant Democratic edge, and the parties’ campaign committees see it as a bellwether for the Southwest — and perhaps the country.
The Sun asked both candidates to raise the curtain on the campaign by naming the six issues they will put front and center — and how they intend to address them in Congress.
With consumers paying record prices at the gas pump and millions of homeowners tangled up in the national mortgage crisis, Porter and Titus plan to talk a lot about the economy. Both candidates also cited the war in Iraq, health care and energy as top priorities.
Titus said she was content identifying just those four issues.
Porter rounded out his list with immigration and taxes — two issues he used against his Democratic opponent, Tessa Hafen, in 2006.
Nevada is fertile ground for the economic debate, particularly as it applies to the subprime mortgage crisis: The state has had the highest foreclosure rate in the country for 15 months.
The candidates are largely on the same page.
Porter broke with his party last week to vote for a Democrat-sponsored housing rescue package. “We have people who are struggling to pay their bills and take care of their families,” he said. “If we can help Wall Street, we can help families.”
Titus supports the same legislation. She also cited her support, as state Senate minority leader, for capping property taxes in Nevada.
“You’ve got to look for some break for the middle class,” Titus said. “You can’t just have a tax break for the very wealthy and big corporations.”
War in Iraq
The candidates have starkly different views of how to end the war.
“We have a responsibility to finish what we started,” said Porter, who wasn’t in Congress when it authorized the president to use force in Iraq. “We need to make sure we get this job done as quickly as possible so we can get our troops home.”
The United States now needs to stabilize Iraq because it is a critical partner in “keeping that region of the world in check,” Porter said.
Titus said the Bush administration is “continuing (the war) with no plan for success and no accountability.” She advocates an immediate troop withdrawal that leaves remaining forces “safe and secure.”
She added: “We need to stop spending that $5,000 a second over there to build an infrastructure when you need an infrastructure here.”
Nevada has one of the highest rates of uninsured people in the country, and is now at the center of a public health crisis, with 50,000 people advised to seek testing for hepatitis and HIV because of an outbreak of hepatitis C stemming from poor procedures at the Endoscopy Center of Southern Nevada.
Porter firmly opposes a government-run health care system, calling it “socialized medicine.” He said further government involvement in the industry would lead to DMV-level service, with patients waiting in long lines for substandard care. More competition among insurers is good for consumers, he said.
Still, Porter said the government should promote preventive care and make coverage more affordable for small businesses.
Titus leans toward supporting a universal health care system that is not mandated but would cover children. She cited her own bill in the Nevada Senate that created Nevada Check-Up, a state program for uninsured children. (Porter voted against expanding the federal health program for uninsured children last year — before voting for it. He said that under the first draft of the bill 40,000 seniors in the district would have lost benefits.) Titus also said she supports the importation of prescription drugs from Canada.
Porter, whose environmental record is improving, said the government should invest in renewable energy technology, with the goal of breaking the country’s addiction to foreign oil.
“We’ve sold our soul to rogue nations,” Porter said. “We need to be dependent on ourselves.”
Porter supports the Republican plan to drill in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.
As a Boulder City councilman and mayor, Porter said he supported a plan for a solar-energy farm, which came to fruition.
Titus said she has been a leader on energy and environmental issues in the state Senate and would continue that role in Congress. She sponsored bills in the 1990s that offered incentives for homeowners who invested in solar or wind systems. Titus supports redirecting tax breaks for oil companies to renewable energy research.
Porter says immigration reform is the subject he’s asked about most when speaking with constituents. He supports a guest worker program but no path to citizenship. “I’m against amnesty,” he said.
Citing the $3 trillion, Democrat-backed spending plan approved by the House this year, Porter said Democrats are responsible for the “largest tax increase in the history of the country.” The plan increased spending on domestic programs such as education, health care, veterans’ benefits and new energy technology while allowing some of the Bush tax cuts for wealthy Americans to expire.
“A tax increase is a tax increase,” Porter said.
He said the spending will cost Nevada taxpayers an additional $3,000 per person.