Politics & Policy

Final Heck-Titus Debate Focuses on Ads, Jobs, Stimulus

Competing attack ads, the proper role of the federal government in job creation and the effectiveness of the stimulus bill were the main issues in a final debate Thursday evening between Rep. Dina Titus and Republican challenger Joe Heck in the hotly contested NV-3 race.

Titus was grilled by moderator Jon Ralston about an ad paid for by a third-party group and criticizing Heck, a physician, for voting against an insurance company mandate to cover a cervical cancer vaccine while the two were serving in the Nevada state Senate. The ad says Heck is, “dangerous to women.” Ralston called the ad “crap” and twice asked Titus if she would disavow it.

Titus stood by the ad.

Heck explained that he opposed the coverage as another insurance company mandate that would increase the cost of health care, as well as based upon concerns about the potential side effects and effectiveness of the vaccine. Heck also noted that after her vote in favor of the mandate, Titus received a campaign contribution from a group supported by the CEO of the company that manufactures the vaccine.

Heck was then challenged about an ad — also called “crap” by the unquenchable moderator — suggesting that Titus, who supported the health care reform law, voted to provide taxpayer funded Viagra to convicted sex offenders.

The basis of the ad is an amendment put forth by Tom Coburn specifying that sex offenders should be excluded from receiving Viagra through the bill’s benefits. Democrats criticized the move as an attempt to hold up the bill, and Titus pointed out that it is also being used in Republican-friendly ads in 29 other key races across the country.

Heck defended the ad, saying rapists could potentially get the drug under the health care bill. He then stated matter-of-factly that Titus voted for the bill.

During discussion of the two ads, Titus complained that the group paying for the attack ad against her, the American Action Network, does not have to disclose its donors. Titus said the house has passed the DISCLOSE Act to identify such donors, a measure she said Heck opposes.

“As his running mate likes to say, ‘man up’, sign up, put your name on something that you want to say,” she said, referring to Sharron Angle’s recent quip that Harry Reid should “man up” on Social Security policy.

“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’,” quipped Heck.

Titus and Heck also argued over the stimulus bill approved by Congress in February 2009. Heck pointed out that the economy has gotten worse since the bill was passed despite promises by the administration that it would keep unemployment under eight percent. Titus claimed the economy would be much worse off without the jobs provided by the bill.

Titus said the bill has created jobs in Nevada, citing 1,800 jobs at McCarran airport in Las Vegas and adding that a staff member with “your own governor from Nevada” agreed that 2,000 teaching jobs has been saved in Clark County.

When Heck said a “bottleneck” at the federal level had prevented some stimulus funds from being distributed, Titus said that was not the case and blamed the office of Nevada Governor Jim Gibbons for holding up 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 to become governor in 2006.

On the issue of jobs, Titus said her job as a member of Congress is to create jobs especially in light of the poor 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.

Heck said he believes his role as a member of Congress would be to craft policy and create an environment allowing the private sector to create jobs. Heck mentioned that President Obama even made the same point in September: it is not the government’s job to create jobs.

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