By Jim EllisDec. 21, 2021 — Nevada Congresswoman Dina Titus (D-Las Vegas) is drawing a great deal of recent media attention largely for the vulgar way in which she described the Democrats’ new Sliver State congressional redistricting map before a meeting of the Nevada AFL-CIO.
She is upset because her once politically rock-solid downtown Las Vegas-anchored district is now in the competitive realm, and she believes the legislators not only did her a disservice, but endangered, from a Democratic partisan context, all of the Clark County districts.
At the labor meeting, Titus described what the state Democrats did by saying, as quoted in the Nevada Current online publication:
“… you read that the Republicans are using gerrymandering to cut out Democratic seats, but they didn’t have to in this state. We did it to ourselves.”
Nevada is one of the 15 Democrat trifecta states — which is where one party controls the governor’s office, the state Senate, and state Assembly — and therefore holds the redistricting pen. The number of places where they can actually gain congressional seats through the re-draw process, however, is only four: Illinois, New Mexico, New York, and Oregon, which is why it is critical for the Nevada Democrats to hold their three Silver State seats. Rep. Mark Amodei’s (R-Carson City) northern 2nd District, for geographic and political reasons, must remain safely Republican.
Rep. Titus, however, believes the final map puts all three of the state’s Democratic districts in jeopardy. Predicting what could be a difficult year for the party in Nevada, Rep. Titus apparently thinks Republicans could sweep the state’s four congressional seats in the 2022 election.
She further stated, again as the Nevada Current reported, that,
“Republicans are going to turn out, and they are excited. Democrats are kind of ‘meh, I have to pay more gas prices. Hispanics aren’t going to want to turn out if we don’t get something for immigration. I mean, why would they?”
Titus remembers the 2014 election cycle when Democratic turnout was so poor in a down year for her party that Republicans swept the ticket from top to bottom.
The legislative leaders and governor’s moves may not be politically crazy, however. Understanding their position nationally, it was their goal to ensure that all three of their current districts, numbers 1, 3, and 4, those of Reps. Titus, Susie Lee (D-Las Vegas), and Steven Horsford (D-Las Vegas), are protected in a region where most election contests are very tight.
To do so, they had no alternative but to break down Titus’ safe seat in order to make the other two adjacent seats more Democratic. Her 1st District was the only one that had an excess of Democratic voters. As a result, all three of the Democratic districts look to have a party base of only around 52 percent.
Keep in mind, however, that Reps. Lee and Horsford only won in 2020 with 48.7 and 50.7 percent, respectively. Titus, on the other hand, recorded a 62-33 percent win, and President Biden carried her 1st District with a 61-36 percent margin. The president barely won Rep. Lee’s District 3 (49.1 – 48.9 percent) and Rep. Horsford’s 4th (50.9 – 47.0 percent). Therefore, the tight partisan tilt in Districts 3 and 4 made it difficult, if not impossible, to draw three solidly safe Democratic districts in Clark County.
To further complicate matters for Titus, the 1st District needed to gain 73,332 individuals, a surprising number for a state that was was the fifth fastest growing entity nationally during the past decade. Rep. Lee’s 3rd District needed to shed 79,374, thus largely accounting for the way both districts were forced to be reconstructed.
While many political columnists and analysts claim that there will be less competition in US House districts after redistricting, a position with which we disagree, it does appear that Nevada will have more than its share of competitive congressional electoral contests. The Silver State will clearly be a place to watch during the 2022 House campaign season.