(Updated at 11:45 a.m. on Oct. 21, 2010, to include Gov. Gibbons comments.)
Questionable attack ads and the role of the federal government in job creation were the top issues in an energized debate Wednesday between Rep. Dina Titus and Republican challenger Joe Heck in one of the most closely watched house races of the Nov. 2 general election.
Titus, D-Nev., was questioned about an ad criticizing Heck, a physician, for failing to support an insurance company mandate to cover a cervical cancer vaccine while serving in the Nevada state Senate. The ad says Heck is, “dangerous to women.”
Titus said she stands by the ad, which came about after Heck opposed a bill requiring insurance companies to provide the vaccine. Heck opposed the coverage as another costly insurance company mandate that would increase the cost of health care.
Heck said also there were concerns about the new vaccine and potential side effects and noted that Titus received a campaign contribution from a group supported partly by the CEO of the company that makes the vaccine after her favorable vote.
Heck was challenged about an ad suggesting that Titus, who supported the health care reform law in her freshman term in the House, voted to provide taxpayer funded Viagra to convicted sex offenders.
Heck said, under the bill, rapists can get the drug and Titus voted for the bill.
In the debate on the Face To Face television program, host Jon Ralston said the ad is inaccurate and has been denounced as a distortion of reality. He urged both candidates to denounce the two ads.
Both candidates in the 3rd Congressional District race refused to budge from their defense of the ads, which are being run by third party groups and not the candidates themselves.
In the discussion of the ads, Titus also said the group paying for the Heck attack ad is clearly identified but the company running the ad against her on the health care bill, the American Action Network, does not have to disclose its donors.
Titus said the house has passed the Disclose Act to identify such donors and she said Heck opposes the measure.
“As his running mate likes to say, ‘man up’, sign up, put your name on something that you want to say,” she said.
Heck responded that he has had no discussions and taken no position on the Disclose Act.
“The only thing that has been true in the Congresswoman’s commercials are the phrase when she says, ‘I’m Dina Titus and I approve this message’.”
The Heck-Titus race is viewed as key as to which party will control the House of Representatives after the Nov. 2 election. Polls show the race is close.
Titus and Heck, who were colleagues in the Nevada state Senate, also sparred over the stimulus bill approved by Congress in February 2009.
Heck said the economy has gotten worse since the bill was passed, while Titus said the economy would be much worse off without the jobs provided by the $787 billion spending measure.
Titus said the bill has created jobs in Nevada, adding that a staff member with ”your own governor from Nevada,” identified 2,000 teaching jobs that have been saved in Clark County. Titus also criticized Nevada Gov. Jim Gibbons and his administration for the slow pace of much of the stimulus spending.
Ralston later replied, “he’s not just my governor, either, by the way, he’s your governor too.”
Titus lost to Gibbons in her bid for governor in 2006.
Gibbons said today in response: “Again Dina Titus does not know what she is talking about. The stimulus funds awarded to Nevada were spent and are being spent as expeditiously as possible in order to create as many new jobs as possible.
“Dina Titus should be embarrassed that her influence garnered Nevada the distinction of being the state that was awarded the lowest amount of stimulus funds per capita,” he said. “She has done nothing to help Nevada families.”
Heck said his role as a member of Congress would be to craft policy to allow the private sector to create jobs. Heck said President Obama made the same point in September.
Heck said reasonable regulations are appropriate, but some regulations, including those in the new health care law, will burden small business.
Titus said her job as a member of Congress is to create jobs given the terrible state of the economy. Tax breaks, for small businesses in the stimulus bill, for hiring returning veterans and the unemployed, are ways Congress can help create jobs, she said.