Porter Finally Gets a Foe

Prominent Local Prosecutor Expected to File After Other Well-Established Democrats Take a Pass in Swing District

Posted July 11, 2007 at 5:55pm

A prominent Las Vegas-area prosecutor is expected to file papers within weeks to challenge Rep. Jon Porter (R-Nev.), an announcement that likely will be met with a sigh of relief by Democratic Party officials who have watched one potential candidate after the next take a pass on the race.

Roll Call has learned that after a number of discussions with the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, Clark County prosecutor Robert Daskas plans to file as a House candidate with the Federal Election Commission by summer’s end if not sooner — provided he sails through the final vetting stages of the DCCC’s recruiting process.

“He’s been in talks with the DCCC,” said one Democratic source, who declined to be named because of the sensitivity of the recruitment process. “[Daskas] is one they’re focusing on at this point.”

Daskas’ presumptive candidacy would come after months of DCCC failures to field a high-profile challenger to Porter, who Democrats say is increasingly vulnerable in a pure swing suburban Las Vegas district. A Democratic poll from April suggests that just more than one-quarter of local voters want to re-elect Porter and about one-third “want to consider someone else.”

The Garin Hart Yang survey of 405 likely voters, conducted March 13-17, had a 4.9-point margin of error.

“We came within a hair of winning in 2006,” said Kirsten Searer, deputy executive director of the Nevada Democratic Party. “Jon Porter is more vulnerable than ever.”

According to a Democratic source, three prominent Democrats have either publicly or privately confirmed that they will not challenge Porter next year: Tessa Hafen, the 2006 nominee who is a former top aide to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.); state Sen. Dina Titus (D), who was the 2006 gubernatorial nominee; and Clark County Commissioner Rory Reid (D), the Majority Leader’s son.

Hafen, a first-time candidate, lost to Porter in November by fewer than 4,000 votes. She raised nearly $1.5 million for the contest, roughly two-thirds of which came from individuals — and about half of that came from out of state, according to CQ PoliticalMoneyLine.

Porter raised just more than $3 million in the runup to his narrow 2006 victory, spending all but $107,000 to beat back Hafen.

Rory Reid’s possible candidacy has been floated frequently in the local media during recent months. Reid did not return a Roll Call telephone call made to his commission office before press time Wednesday.

Titus, too, would’ve been a promising candidate, Searer said.

“Sen. Titus has incredible name recognition and is very popular,” Searer said. “She would’ve been a wonderful candidate.”

Former state Speaker Richard Perkins (D) also has decided to skip the Congressional race, Searer confirmed, and so has state Sen. Maggie Carlton (D).

A Daskas candidacy would bulk up — despite Porter’s potential vulnerabilities — a lonely Democratic field that to date includes convicted felon and Dr. Phil dead-ringer Barry Michaels (D) and Andrew Martin (D), an openly gay accountant.

With or without Daskas, Republicans are preparing themselves for the worst, already enrolling Porter in their Regain Our Majority Program.

“Jon Porter is going to be prepared for another tough race next year,” said National Republican Congressional Committee spokeswoman Julie Shutley. “No matter who the candidate is we’re confident he’s going to have the resources he needs to be successful.”

A Daskas candidacy likely would hammer away at Porter’s perceived ties to major White House policy blunders. Last year, Porter voted with the White House 93 percent of the time. In 2007, he voted to approve of the troop escalation in Iraq but was one of 51 House Republicans who voted to override President Bush’s veto of expanded stem-cell research funding.

“He’s been blanket support in the war in Iraq,” a Democratic source said. “He’s a puppet for the Bush administration and every frustration that people have with the Bush administration … they need to realize that Jon Porter is a staunch supporter.”

While promising on paper, a potential Daskas candidacy is not without its own liabilities, the source said. Unlike Porter — or even Hafen, who comes from a well-known Nevada family — Daskas does not have deep pockets himself, nor extensive experience passing the hat around to local or national donors. Also, Daskas has been involved in a number of high-profile murder cases — not least of which involved Sandy Murphy, a stripper acquitted of killing her casino-owning boyfriend, according to local news reports.

“I’m sure Jon Porter will find some case where Daskas let a criminal free,” the source said. And according to one liberal Las Vegas blogger, the negative ads in a potential Daskas-Porter matchup are not difficult to imagine.

“[Daskas] couldn’t pin a murder rap on Sandy Murphy. Robert Daskas: soft on gold-digging girlfriends. Wrong for Nevada.”