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Nevada Race Illustrates National Divide

Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo
One Democrat knowledgeable about the situation in Nevada said party leaders are upset with former Rep. Dina Titus (above) for running in the state’s 1st district primary against state Sen. Ruben Kihuen, who could significantly mobilize Latino voters and positively affect the statewide elections for Democrats in 2012.

"Ruben is from that district, and the constituents there love him," the source added. "That can be very helpful in turning out the vote for President Obama and Shelley Berkley. Party leaders and activists alike are upset with Dina for making this race about herself and not considering other implications."

Titus, who served in the state Senate for 20 years before running for governor in 2006 and Congress in 2008, compiled a moderate voting record during her term in the House but was washed out in the 2010 national GOP wave. In an interview, Titus said Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Steve Israel (N.Y.) told her before the lines were redrawn that she was the Democrats' top candidate to take on Heck.

"Then I got drawn way into the heart of [the 1st district], which includes most of my old Senate seat" and part of her former Congressional district, Titus said. "And since then, they've not tried to pressure me out of there. I've not heard from Democrats saying, 'You have to get out of this race,' or, 'We're going to go against you if you don't get out of this race.'"

Titus said she has the backing of the two highest-ranking House Democrats: Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) and Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (Md.). She added that it would be disappointing if Latinos said they would not vote for Obama or Berkley just because Kihuen is not on the ballot and that it's "presumptuous" for anyone to think that's the case.

"They turned out in the presidential before when Ruben wasn't on the ticket," she noted. In 2008, Latinos accounted for 15 percent of the Nevada vote, and 76 percent voted for Obama, who won the state by 12 points.

Titus would also be facing a primary in the 3rd district if she opted to run there. State Speaker John Oceguera is in and recently announced the backing of Richard Bryan, a former governor and Senator; former Gov. Bob Miller; and former Rep. Jim Bilbray, along with a few dozen current and former state legislators and city council members. The 3rd is the most competitive of the state's four districts, and the incumbent there will likely face close elections for the next decade.

A Berkley spokeswoman said the Congresswoman "is not getting involved in the Democratic primaries for the Congressional races," and the Obama campaign did not respond to a request for comment.

"The primary is in June, and you have all the way until November," Titus said. "We'll probably come back together. Whoever wins will reach out, and whoever loses will certainly not stop being a good Democrat and will try to turn out Democrats for the president and Shelley Berkley."

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