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Why Titus Won't Run for Reid's Senate Seat

Titus will seek re-election in Nevada's 1st District instead of running for the Senate seat that Reid is vacating. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Some jobs are too good to risk. Even for a Senate bid.  

That's how Nevada Rep. Dina Titus feels about her job representing the state's 1st District.  

“I'd hate to start over as a freshman in the Senate from a small state,” she told CQ Roll Call Wednesday afternoon.  

"Once you decide to run for the Senate, you’re pretty much done in the House,” she added. "All your time is spent fundraising."  There are currently eight members of the House running for Senate.  

Titus' Tuesday evening announcement that she won't seek the Democratic nomination for Senate clears the field for former Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto, whom Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and EMILY's List had previously endorsed in the open race to replace Reid, who announced in March that he wouldn’t seek re-election .  

Titus has a reputation of running where and when she wants — sometimes against Reid's preferred candidates in Democratic primaries. When Titus first ran for the 1st District in 2012, after being unseated by Heck in the 3rd District in 2010, Reid remained neutral publicly but behind the scenes favored state Sen. Ruben Kihuen . And in 2006, when Titus sought the Democratic nomination for governor, Reid privately backed  former Henderson Mayor James Gibson. Reid's endorsement of Cortez Masto wasn't behind the scenes; this time, he publicly chose sides.  

“I have run as the outlaw candidate before,” Titus said, but she told CQ Roll Call that wasn't part of her decision and said Reid never pressured her not to run. "He said it was my decision to make." Titus said she did not commission polling, but she was confident she could have won the primary.  

But running would have been costly — not just for her own coffers, but for the good of the party. "She could see a path — but just that it would take an awful lot of work," one Democratic operative said. And while that never stopped her from challenging Reid's favorites before, a Senate race is a bigger deal, with more potential for damaging intraparty friction. "She took one for the team," the operative added.  

Holding on to the Nevada seat is a must for Democrats, who need to net five seats to win control of the Senate. Avoiding a potentially bloody primary is the first step to doing that. The Rothenberg & Gonzales Political Report/Roll Call rates the race as  Tilts Democrat .  

Reid released a statement Tuesday evening highlighting Titus’ role in the House — effectively praising her decision to stay put. “Dina Titus has done a remarkable job representing Nevada in the House of Representatives and I know she will continue to do so for a long time,” the Senate minority leader said. “Representing the first district, Dina will be able to gain crucial seniority on committees and ensure our small state has a voice on issues affecting us.”  

By staying in the House, Titus remains in a safe Democratic seat. President Barack Obama carried the 1st District, which includes downtown Las Vegas, with 65 percent of the vote in 2012. Her decision to stay in the district allows other Democratic recruits to run in the 3rd and 4th districts.  

With the Democratic field now solidified, Republicans are left to deal with their own potentially divisive primary in one of their only Senate pickup opportunities. They're hoping to avoid a repeat of 2010 , when Sharron Angle emerged from a messy primary field and went on to lose to Reid by less than 6 points.  

Titus’ decision could push Republican Rep. Joe Heck closer to officially declaring his candidacy, which could clear the GOP field . He’s close to getting in , but Republicans in the state are still waiting on Gov. Brian Sandoval to rule out a bid before rallying behind Heck.  

If Sandoval definitively passes on a bid, Heck would be "the go-to guy," Sen. Dean Heller told CQ Roll Call earlier this month.  

Related: Heck Close to Senate Bid A Silver State Waiting Game  Titus Senate Bid Could Shake Up Nevada House Races Roll Call Race Ratings Map: Ratings for Every House and Senate Race in 2016 Get breaking news alerts and more from Roll Call in your inbox or on your iPhone.