HENDERSON, Nev. (AP) - Dina Titus, a political science professor, longtime Democratic lawmaker and failed candidate for governor, on Thursday jumped into the race for Nevada's 3rd Congressional District, a target for Democrats hoping to pick up seats in Congress.
The state senator immediately set out to portray her Republican incumbent as a politician in lock step with the Bush administration policies.
"Jon Porter, let me tell you, you've been carrying George Bush's baggage for too long now," Titus told crowd of more than 200 supporters, including many of southern Nevada's political figures.
Titus announced her plans as Democrats moved to quickly fill a spot vacated when the party's top candidate dropped out of the race this week.
Until Monday, former Clark County prosecutor Robert Daskas was the national and state parties' top pick to challenge three-term Porter in the suburban Las Vegas district.
Daskas cited unspecified "family considerations" in abandoning his campaign Monday. However Daskas' fundraising had lagged. Porter had more than $1 million cash on-hand at the end of the first quarter of the year while Daskas had about $450,000. Daskas had never sought elected office before entering the race in September.
The seat has been coveted by Democrats since its creation in 2001 and is on a short list of potentially swing districts expected to draw national attention and dollars in November.
Voter registration numbers look promising for Democrats. The district, which includes parts of Las Vegas, Henderson and Boulder City, has historically had nearly equal numbers of Democrats and Republicans, but a massive Democratic voter registration push has shifted the balance.
Since November 2006, when first-time candidate Tessa Hafen lost to Porter by just 3,900 votes, Democrats have added more than 14,000 more voters to their ranks, bringing the total to nearly 167,000. Republicans' tally has dropped by 4,000 to 145,500.
Porter defeated Hafen, then a 30-year-old former aide to Sen. Harry Reid, by playing up her youth, inexperience and time spent living outside the district.
He'll be forced to take a new line of attack against Titus. At 57, she's been a political fixture in Nevada for decades.
As minority leader in the Senate since 1993, Titus has advocated moderated growth in southern Nevada, tighter sex offender laws and,
during the housing boom, property tax freezes. She's known for delivering quick, candid quips in a Georgia twang that hasn't disappeared in the more than 20 years since she moved out of her
Titus teaches political science at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas and is an expert on the federal government's atomic testing in the Nevada desert.
She was the Democrat's pick for governor in 2006, an open race considered Democrats best shot at the office in years.
Democrats picked up several statewide races that year, but Titus was beaten by Republican Rep. Jim Gibbons of Reno. The defeat was particularly bruising given the heavy cloud of scandal that engulfed Gibbons in the final stretch of the race.
Accused of illegally hiring a Peruvian housekeeper, accepting gifts and bribes from a military contractor and assaulting a cocktail waitress, Gibbons won the race by 4 percentage points on the strength of his support in rural counties.
Titus carried southern Nevada's Clark County, though did not generate enough turnout to carry the race.
The race did yield a large and active network of Titus supporters. Many were among those gathered at the announcement.
(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)