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August 10, 2022

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POLITICAL MEMO:

First shot fired at Titus: She’s too conservative

Dina Titus Announcement

Sam Morris

Former Rep. Dina Titus announces her candidacy for Congress in the state’s 1st District Thursday, Nov. 3, 2011. Titus made the announcement at the Dina Titus Estates, a housing complex for the elderly and disabled which was named for her in 2006.

She’s been labeled Dina TaxUs and subjected to expensive ad campaigns likening her to U.S. Rep. Nancy Pelosi. But as former U.S. Rep. Dina Titus enters what could be a brutal Democratic primary fight, she will encounter an attack she’s never faced before: She’s too conservative.

In a sign of what’s to come as Titus goes up against state Sen. Ruben Kihuen for Nevada’s most liberal congressional district, party insiders are pointing to Titus’ record during her two years in Congress to argue she strayed from her Democratic roots.

<strong>Assemblyman Ruben Kihuen</strong>, 27, of Las Vegas, is national co-chairman of Hispanic outreach for New York Sen. Hillary Clinton. In 2006, he became the first Hispanic immigrant to win elected office in Nevada.

Assemblyman Ruben Kihuen, 27, of Las Vegas, is national co-chairman of Hispanic outreach for New York Sen. Hillary Clinton. In 2006, he became the first Hispanic immigrant to win elected office in Nevada.

During her time representing the 3rd Congressional District — a swing district she narrowly lost to Republican Joe Heck last year — Titus was a reluctant vote on the health care reform bill, voiced support for offshore oil drilling and maintained a middle-of-the-pack rating on liberal legislation according to the National Journal.

Her Democratic critics also didn’t like that she voted against President Barack Obama’s small banks lending bill in 2010 and that she voted to extend the Bush tax cuts — although she did so at the behest of Obama.

“These are all fine votes to have if you’re running in a moderate-to-conservative district,” said one Democratic insider who voiced frustration that Titus decided against a rematch with Heck next year. “But now she’s asking to return to the job and her votes are not representative of the community she’s trying to represent.”

The charge that Titus is conservative is laughable in many Democratic circles. But the fact her critics would lob it as an attack — the same week she announces she’s running in the 1st Congressional District — is an indication of just how brutal the race against Kihuen will be.

Titus has long been known as a formidable Democratic candidate, particularly in primary fights. She’s maintained strong ties with various factions in the progressive coalition — environmentalists, abortion-rights advocates, the gay and lesbian community.

And during her tenure as minority leader in the state Senate, she was a reliable crusader for their issues.

“Her instincts, I think, are liberal,” said state Sen. Sheila Leslie, D-Reno. “I remember her always sticking up for the liberal position against (Senate Majority Leader Bill) Raggio.”

In 2006, Titus bested a more conservative Democrat, former Henderson Mayor James Gibson, in the 2006 primary for governor, only to be cast as too liberal for Nevada by Republican Jim Gibbons. Gibbons, who won the race, labeled her Dina Taxes.

But after she became the first Democrat to oust a Republican in the swing 3rd Congressional District, Titus’ critics say she began to move to the right, preparing for the tough re-election bid she’d have in 2010.

“When she went to Congress, I was surprised she wasn’t with the president on the health care bill,” Leslie said. “She started to lose some of the liberals when it looked like she was waffling on the health care reform.”

Erin Neff, director of Progress Now, said she wouldn’t characterize Titus as too conservative for the 1st Congressional District.

“But I know there are votes that upset progressives in several arenas,” she said. “We had to push the hell out of her on health care. We know how much work that vote took.”

For the most part, Titus has reluctant critics — Democrats who are dispirited they will have to choose between two favorites.

Titus accuses her critics of “revisionist history.” She said she always supported health care reform, including a single-payer system, but was unhappy with parts of the bill. She voted against the small banks bill because she saw no way it would lead to actual lending and didn’t want to be accused of supporting a second bailout.

“You can’t take those votes out of context,” Titus said. “It doesn’t mean I’m in lock-step with the Democratic leadership or the establishment, but don’t try to undermine what my credentials are in those areas.

“If it was a problem, they sure didn’t mention it the last time I ran.”

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