News - April 20, 2017 - by Ray Hagar

By Ray Hagar
Nevada Newsmakers

Rep. Dina Titus, D-Las Vegas, announced last month she is considering running for the U.S. Senate against incumbent Republican Sen. Dean Heller.

This week, the congresswoman who represents the Las Vegas Strip, doubled down on a possible run, saying:

"I think Dean Heller can be beat."

Titus' comments come during an interview on Nevada Newsmakers Thursday.

While Titus says Heller can be defeated, she also said it would be tough to defeat him. Heller was first appointed to the U.S. Senate in 2011 to fill a vacancy left by the resignation of former Sen. John Ensign. He then defeated Democrat Shelley Berkley in the 2012 election by about 1.1 percent of the vote.

"Even with Dean Heller's record, he is not going to be easy to beat," Titus said. "He is popular. He will have all of this Republican money in here to save him. And because he does flip-flop and is vague, it make it easier for him to present one persona to one group and another to a different group."

Heller's office did not immediatly return an email requesting comment Thursday.

Titus -- whose long political career includes 20 years in the Nevada State Senate and 15 years as the senate minority leader -- pointed to Democratic advantages going into 2018 to back up her confidence about Heller's vulnerability.

"I think the demographics of Nevada are such that it would favor a Democratic candidate, as well as Democratic registration," Titus said in an interview at the state Capitol in Carson City.

"Of course you've got to turn them (voters) out, it is not just about registration. But look at some of the things Dean Heller has said in just the two weeks since we had that (initial) conversation (about running for the Senate), which kind of adds ammunition to my position."

Titus pointed to Heller's "town hall" meeting in Reno on Monday where he shared the stage with U.S. Rep. Mark Amodei, R-Carson City, but took most of the heat from the crowd of about 500 at the Reno-Sparks Convention Center.

Titus called out Heller for flip flopping positions. At Monday's town hall, Heller called the proposed budget of President Trump "anti-Nevada." An RGJ news report by Seth Richardson noted Heller's comments "were of a different tone from his earlier town hall appearance in Reno where he said he would probably support the majority of Trump’s budget."

Titus said Heller has also flip-flopped on Planned Parenthood.

"He said he is against Planned Parenthood," Titus said. "He was for Planned Parenthood. He was against Planned Parenthood, except for some of the things they do. He has flipped-flopped so much on that. He was against Trump but now he thinks Trump is fabulous and now he is against...you just can't pin him down. And I think people -- and you see this because so many demonstrations and rallies are occurring, town halls -- that people want some answers and they want some specifics and he seldom gives them that."

Titus, in Carson City to speak to the Nevada Legislature, has enjoyed the reaction to the news story that she is considering running against Heller.

"Yeah, I'm thinking about it but it has been a very positive response," she said. "People here in Carson City, who I have not seen in a while, thought it was pretty exciting. There has been some Twitter conversation about it."

Heller is the only Republican in the U.S. Senate running for re-election in 2018 who is from a state that Democrat Hillary Clinton carried in the 2016 presidential election.

Many of the Republicans up for re-election in 2018 are from states when Trump won big in 2016.

And Titus acknowledged that if she was to beat Heller, she may still find herself in the minority party in the U.S. Senate.

"However, off-year elections favor the party that is out of the White House and this White House has been so crazy and extreme and disconcerting with the conflict back and fourth," she said. "You never know what is happening there and that should favor Democrats and they may do better than they anticipate."

Titus was not so confident about Democrats gaining the majority in the U.S. House in 2018, either.

"There are about 20-something seats that we would have to take," Titus said about a Democratic majority. "Part of the problem about taking the majority in the House is that so many of those districts have been gerrymandered to make them safe (for Republicans). So that makes it hard."

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