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« Expanding The Field | Blog Home Page | McCain's Ups And Downs »

Dems' Vegas Vacation

Republican Jon Porter of Nevada's fast-growing Third District will most likely face another tough race for his suburban Las Vegas seat. Kerry barely lost the 3rd by 50%-49%. Porter won the seat in 2002 when the district was newly created following the 2000 census. Porter faced a tough re-election in 2006 when he weathered tough criticism from opponent Tessa Haffen, a former aide to Senator Harry Reid. Porter barely outlasted Haffen, winning a nail biter 48%-47%.

This time around, Porter will face one of a host of potential challengers running in the Democratic primary. The establishment picks seems to be Clark County Chief Deputy District Attorney Robert Daskas, though Daskas has to get through a primary against CPA and fraud examiner Andrew Martin. Rory Reid, chair of the Clark County Commission, son of Senator Reid, is also said to be a potential candidate.

The younger Reid's organization was instrumental in Hillary Clinton's victory in Nevada's caucuses in January, and would likely make a strong candidate against Porter. Still, national Democrats remain bullish on Daskas, should Reid forgo his own bid.

Although he originally supported Rudy Giuliani in the Republican Presidential Primary, Porter will be one of many Republican Congressmen happy to have John McCain heading the ticket this year. While Porter has successfully attracted independents in the past with his more moderate views on social issues, he needs all the help he can get in a district where registered Democrats now outnumber registered Republicans.

Democrats will paint Porter as a Bush Republican for his steadfast support for the war in Iraq. Porter is one of the prime targets of MoveOn.org and other Democratic-leaning groups seeking to link the war with the struggling economy. In a district that came close to casting their votes for Kerry four years ago, those attempts could prove fruitful.

Preparing his defense, Porter has become more outspoken in his attempt to distance himself from the party and cast himself in an independent light. He was one of the first Republicans last year to call for Attorney General Alberto Gonzales' resignation and he voted to override Bush's veto of the State Children's Health Insurance Program. Porter did not join GOP colleagues in walking out during a vote on contempt citations for Josh Bolten and Harriet Miers.

Paying attention to local issues, Porter recently proposed a companion to John Kerry's mortgage refinance bill in the Senate, which would help state and local housing agencies refinance mortgages and thus create better rates for homeowners. Clark County, along with the rest of Nevada, has been particularly hard-hit by the housing crisis.

Still, Porter is one of many Republicans in swing districts this year hoping 2006 was the Democrats' best chance at knocking off vulnerable GOP incumbents. But as Nevada changes, so too has Porter's district -- the U.S. Census Bureau estimates the district grew more than 33% in the five years between 2000 and 2005. With so many new voters, Porter will not likely face an easy re-election bid in the near future.

-- Greg Bobrinskoy