Money a major theme in Gibbons vs. Titus |

Money a major theme in Gibbons vs. Titus

Geoff Dornan
Photos by Chad Lundquist / Nevada Appeal / Nevada Democratic gubernatorial candidate state Sen. Dina Titus responds to a statement by Republican candidate U.S. Rep. Jim Gibbons during the debate.

RENO – In a much more wide-open debate than most such political events, Rep. Jim Gibbons and State Sen. Dina Titus met before an enthusiastic crowd of 600 mostly college students Monday night.

Titus approached the meeting sponsored by student Republicans, Democrats and the nonpartisan Youth Voice more aggressively than Gibbons, attacking what she says are stark differences between his statements and his record.

She said she had no choice, “when they’re running lies about you on television.”

But both came to the event at University of Nevada, Reno with a theme they repeated numerous times.

His: “Over the next four years, I will save you money; she will cost you money.

“She has a pattern of voting for every tax increase that comes along.”

Hers: “Like on so many issues, what he’s saying during the campaign is different than how he’s voted.

“I’ve made tough decisions to balance the state budget while he has mortgaged your future.”

And both stumbled at one point or another.

Titus, a political science professor at University of Nevada, Las Vegas, flubbed her opening remarks when she thanked the students of UNLV for sponsoring the event – drawing boos from the UNR crowd at Nightingale Hall.

Gibbons stumbled after accusing Titus of supporting driver’s licenses for illegal aliens. Titus charged Gibbons was quoted as telling the Latin Chamber of Commerce he would support the Utah plan of giving licenses to illegals.

“I said my door would be open to listen to them,” he said. “I did not agree to it. I would not agree to it.” He said he would not support licenses or amnesty for illegals.

Asked what role the state plays in Homeland Security, Titus charged that Gibbons has failed Nevada by allowing the state’s Homeland Security funding to be cut when the Las Vegas Strip is regarded as a prime target.

“That’s a crying shame, and it’s the congressman’s fault,” she said.

She said as governor she would demand the state make all first-responder radio systems interoperable so they can talk to each other in a crisis.

Gibbons said his emphasis would be “to prepare so we never have an attack on our soil.”

Gibbons was firm on one point, saying if he is elected, “I do not intend to raise taxes. I intend for the state of Nevada to live within its means.”

Titus, he charged, may have some good ideas for programs, but they would cost huge amounts. He wants those programs – such as all-day kindergarten – studied before proposing the expenditure, which he said could be upwards of $100 million.

Asked what they would do about the high school drop-out rate, Titus called for all-day kindergarten, vocational education, apprenticeship programs and more decision-making at the school level. Gibbons said the first thing “is to make sure we fund education first” – the ballot question he has sponsored for November. He said the state can start by paying teachers more.

The exchanges were especially contentious in the portion of the debate when candidates asked each other questions. Gibbons accused Titus of having ethical problems, saying there are complaints against her that the secretary of state is investigating.

She responded those are harassing, frivolous complaints he and her primary opponent filed.

She said Gibbons had to return contributions in his 1994 governor’s race for violating campaign laws, and, she said, has committed the same violation again this year, funneling contributions to his wife’s business.

She charged he has been ineffective in Congress and voted with President Bush more than 90 percent of the time. He said one group has called him one of the 20 most effective Congress members, and that he is proud of his record for Nevada. Neither he nor his campaign gave the name of that group.

Gibbons charged Titus has repeatedly raised taxes in Nevada. She said she voted for balanced budgets in the Nevada Senate, while he approved huge increases in the debt ceiling and deficit spending at the federal level.

At one point, a broadly smiling Titus drew laughter from the crowd, saying, “This is fun, isn’t it?”

The two are expected to meet at least twice more before the Nov. 7 vote.

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