Monday, Aug. 18, 2008 | 11:21 p.m.
Just minutes away from some of Nevada's most famed boxing venues, congressional candidates Jon Porter and Dina Titus threw their first head-to-head jabs Monday night.
The pair's first live sparring round was part of a candidates' forum put on by Henderson's Congregation Ner Tamid at the Flamingo Library.
In addition to the candidates for Nevada's 3rd Congressional District, the forum included the candidates for state Senate seats 5 and 6 and a handful of candidates for Clark County Commission seats.
The event drew a few hundred people at its outset, though that number dwindled to less than a hundred by the time the commission candidates went onstage for the undercard event.
For Porter, the incumbent Republican, and Titus, the Democratic state Senate minority leader, the tension that has marked public statements in their race quickly emerged in the debate.
Titus threw the first punch, calling Porter a "rubber stamp" for President George W. Bush and accusing him of supporting policies that have led to high gas prices, war in Iraq and the foreclosure crisis.
"My opponent will claim that he has been a problem solver when the fact is, for the last six years, he's been a big part of the problem," Titus said.
Porter, meanwhile, accused Titus of misrepresenting his record on certain issues.
"We probably need to do our homework a little better, Dina," he said. "If you're going to state my record, please follow through with all the facts."
The first question to the pair asked about their energy policy. While both support offshore drilling (though Titus said individual states should regulate it), they differed on other aspects.
Porter called the oil crisis "an issue of supply and demand" and said the best solution is for Americans to conserve and to find oil sources within the United States. He said he is against raising taxes on oil companies, because those increases would get passed on to the consumer.
Titus, meanwhile, called for the president to tap into the nation's Strategic Oil Reserve to immediately bring down prices and for a tax on oil companies to fund investments in renewable energy research.
When the discussion turned to Iraq, Titus accused Porter of moderating his position on the war as it has become unpopular and called for Iraq to shoulder more of the cost of its reconstruction.
"We're spending $4,000 a second to be there while they have $70 billion in a New York bank account from oil," she said. "I believe (Iraq) should take some responsibility and use their money to build their infrastructure while we bring our money home and use it to build ours."
Porter said he would bring the troops home tomorrow if he could, but said the United States must complete its objectives first.
"It's a tragic, tragic loss of lives for our loved ones, but they need to know that their lives will not have been taken in vain," he said.
After Porter and Titus finished, the spotlight turned to state Senate Seat 5, where Republican incumbent Joe Heck is facing Democratic challenger Shirley Breeden.
Breeden attacked Heck's record on health care, particularly for voting against a bill that required insurance companies to pay for prostate and cervical cancer screenings, and linked him to Repulican Gov. Jim Gibbons.
"My opponent marches in lockstep with Gov. Gibbons," she said.
Heck questioned the claim, pointing to his endorsements from several traditionally liberal groups, including the Nevada State Education Association.
A doctor, Heck said the insurance mandates he voted against, which were ultimately passed, would only increase the cost of health care in Nevada.
"Why is it that the same people who bemoan constantly the cost of insurance in this state are the same ones asking for more mandates?" he said.
As for the race for County Commission Seat A, where Republican Brian Scroggins and Democrat Steve Sisolak are competing for the seat Bruce Woodbury is vacating -- the state's term limits law disqualified Woodbury -- the candidates had only minutes to make their case.
Scroggins said his sign business has been hit hard by the economic downturn and wants to share the lessons he's learned with the commission.
"Our family has tightened our belts, and I believe government should do the same," he said.
Sisolak touted his experience as a member of the State Board of Regents, which governs Nevada's colleges and universities, as his greatest asset.
"I want to take the expertise that I've learned at the State Board of Regents, where we stress accountability and accessibility, and bring that to the County Commission," he said.
Jeremy Twitchell is a reporter for the Home News. He can be reached at 702-990-8928 or [email protected].