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April 19, 2014

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Jon Ralston takes Porter, Titus to task for their inaccurate point-counterpoints

I thought Dina Titus was running against Jon Porter. But it turns out she is again running against Jim Gibson.

I thought Jon Porter was running against Dina Titus. But it turns out he is running against Bill Raggio.

If the presidential campaign is devolving into pure nonsense — you can put lipstick on a pig but that doesn’t change reality — the Congressional District 3 contest is trying its worst to follow suit. The catalyst is Rep. Porter’s latest campaign ad, which ended a few seconds of tranquillity in the contest by eviscerating state Sen. Titus on her legislative record.

The sloppiness of the Porter spot and the embarrassment of the Titus response makes one wonder just how low the discourse can get — and if these candidates have any idea whom they are really running against.

The spot creates the dark impression that Titus is “a self-serving politician Nevada can’t trust” by using her votes for the infamous 300 percent pension increase of 1989 and the two largest tax increases in history of 1991 and 2003. The theme is right out of the Gibson for governor playbook as the Henderson mayor tried to portray Titus as voting “for herself, not for Nevada” by using the same votes.

The Porter approach on what is a legitimate issue — Titus should have to defend her legislative record — is to select one vote, albeit one of the most controversial in Nevada history, to accuse Titus of being out for only herself. If anyone thinks such votes could not be distorted from Porter’s Carson City and D.C. legislative records, that person is not a political consultant.

The pension increase was supported by 58 lawmakers and I don’t think I go too far in speculating that had Porter been there — he was elected in 1994 — he almost surely would have supported what seemed at first an innocuous measure. But the political tsunami that followed — Gov. Bob Miller’s veto, the immediate legislative override (85 minutes!) and the special session a few months later to repeal — was unprecedented.

Titus has to live with that vote — and many other lawmakers died with it, defeated in 1990 as challengers fanned the flames despite the repeal. But instead of trying to defend it, her campaign issued a release about “setting the record straight” and proceeded to do nothing of the kind.

“The ad incorrectly claims Titus voted to increase her pension when the bill would have not applied to her and she voted to repeal it,” the release asserted.

Where to start? First, of course the pension would have applied to her — she just wasn’t vested when she voted for it. Second, she voted to repeal it only because she and other lawmakers were petrified of the political fallout. You can put lipstick on that pig, but it was still the most sensational legislative pork in Carson City annals.

One last point on the pension exhumation: The ad claims Titus “voted to triple her government-funded pension,” an indication Team Porter needs a remedial math lesson. A 300 percent increase is a quadrupling, so Porter actually made it sound less egregious.

The ad continues by raising the largest tax increase in history in 2003, one of the most distorted issues I have seen and one that was mostly needed just to meet roll-up costs in education and other services. Again, I suggest that had Porter been there, and not running for something the next cycle, he would have joined with Raggio and every Senate Republican but three to vote for the $830 million increase. And if he would have voted against it, let’s hear what he would have cut.

Titus doesn’t ask that but instead, in that release, says both tax increases Porter invokes were “signed by a Republican Governor.” Republican Kenny Guinn proposed and signed the 2003 increase. But the other one, previously the largest at $300 million, was proposed and signed by Democratic Gov. Bob Miller. And it is on that one that Porter completely loses his bearings by calling the centerpiece a “job-killing payroll tax.”

Job-killing? The state Employment, Training & Rehabilitation Department reports that 647,859 new jobs have been created in Nevada since 1991. Some job killer.

And Raggio and several other Republicans voted for that one, too. Is Porter saying the Senate majority leader is a jobs-destroying politician, too? I think not. Might we see Raggio so angry that he endorses longtime nemesis Titus? I think not.

But I also think we have not yet begun to see the low level of rhetoric this campaign will bring in the final weeks.

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