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Ex-Rep. Dina Titus is attempting a comeback in 2012. But unlike many former Members, she appears to be waging the battle with mixed support from the Democratic establishment.
The early days of the open-seat race in Nevada's 1st district have focused primarily on how the contest will affect the party's viability in statewide contests.
National Democrats are counting on a robust Latino turnout in Las Vegas to push them to victory in the Senate race and capture the state's six electoral votes for President Barack Obama. There is concern that Titus won't excite that bloc in the general election on the same level that Mexican-born state Sen. Ruben Kihuen (D) could. Kihuen and Titus are the leading contenders in the 1st district Democratic primary, which is likely to determine the next Member from the heavily Democratic district.
Since the state's new Congressional boundaries became law Oct. 27, Las Vegas newspapers have weighed in on the Hispanic voter dynamic, and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) was lambasted on the Las Vegas NBC affiliate Monday by liberal commentator Hugh Jackson for meddling in the 1st district race.
Reid is officially staying neutral, but two of the top consultants from his re-election campaign last year, media firm GMMB and the Mellman Group polling firm, are now on Kihuen's team, something the candidate made sure to point out in a recent announcement.
Kihuen, 31, who cut his teeth a decade ago knocking on doors for now-Sen. Mark Warner's (D-Va.) gubernatorial campaign, considers Reid a mentor and helped mobilize Latino voters for him in 2010.
The 1st district, based in the urban core of Las Vegas, has a 37 percent Latino
voting-age population — by far the highest of the state's four districts.
Rep. Shelley Berkley (D) is vacating the 1st district seat to run for Senate, and Titus opted to run in the far safer 1st when her home was drawn into it last month. There is some frustration in the party that Titus is bypassing a challenge to Rep. Joe Heck (R), who unseated her last year in the more competitive 3rd district.
"There's good reason why Reid and national Democrats would want to see a young up-and-coming Latino win this race," said one knowledgeable Democrat, noting the importance of the district's Latino voters to the party's statewide electability.