By Kyle Trygstad
There may be no Democratic candidate in America more valuable to the party's efforts to take back the House than former Rep. Dina Titus.
The Nevadan, running in a safe Las Vegas-based district, has donated time and a staggering amount of money to help Democrats nationwide who are running for office. To date, Titus has contributed or helped raise $80,000 for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and an additional $74,000 for fellow House candidates. Democrats hope her efforts will help the party cut deeply into the Republican majority.
"It's a critical element in our Drive to 25," DCCC Chairman Steve Israel (N.Y.) said in an interview. "Dina and other Majority Makers are helping us raise the resources we need not just to elect them, but to elect a Democratic majority."
Titus, ousted from her old House seat in 2010 by now-Rep. Joe Heck (R), is one of eight candidates running in safe districts who are assisting other candidates as part of the DCCC's Majority Makers. The new program this cycle encourages a sharing of the wealth with others who need it more.
The other candidates participating in the program are: Joyce Beatty in Ohio, Tony Cardenas in California, Joaquin Castro in Texas, Lois Frankel in Florida, former Rep. Alan Grayson in Florida, Steven Horsford in Nevada and Dan Kildee in Michigan. More are expected to be announced in the near future.
Among them, Titus is leading the pack.
Beyond her support for the DCCC, Titus has donated through her campaign or leadership political action committee $5,000 each to former Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick in Arizona's 1st district, Ami Bera in California's 7th district, Keith Fitzgerald in Florida's 13th district, Rep. Kathy Hochul in New York's 26th district and Rep. Larry Kissell in North Carolina's 8th district. She also gave $1,000 to Julia Brownley in California's 26th district.
Titus is headlining fundraisers in two different cities Saturday. One is in Phoenix for Kirkpatrick, who is also running to return to Capitol Hill after falling victim to the 2010 Republican wave; the other is in Las Vegas for 3rd district candidate John Oceguera.
The majority of Titus' help has gone to Oceguera, the Nevada Assembly Speaker who is challenging Heck. Titus has stumped for Oceguera, is co-hosting another fundraiser for him Saturday, and has already donated $9,000 to him and helped him raise $40,000. Titus said Oceguera "is getting his sea legs" now and will emerge victorious come November.
"I'm working very hard to win my own election and I want to go back to Congress, but I'd like to go back in the majority because I know that that's a way to better serve my own constituents," Titus said.
Israel hopes the generosity of Titus and her fellow Majority Makers provides an example for current Members in safe districts.
Israel said the state of the DCCC's Member dues collection is "improving," but the chairman is no doubt looking for more assistance in the party's uphill climb to net 25 seats.
If Majority Makers candidates "can step up to the plate to put our Caucus in the majority, then everyone in our Caucus should step up to the plate to put our Caucus in the majority," Israel said. "It's hard for a Democratic incumbent in a relatively safe seat to argue that they can't be part of the team when people who aren't even on the team are supporting the majority."
The National Republican Congressional Committee does not have an equivalent program this cycle, but in 2010, it launched a similar operation called the Young Guns Vanguard. Among the candidates included in that were now-freshman Reps. Todd Rokita (Ind.), Jeff Denham (Calif.) and Diane Black (Tenn.), who helped raise money for what amounted to a GOP majority.
After raising tens of thousands of dollars for his fellow GOP candidates during the 2006 cycle, Rep. Kevin McCarthy (Calif.) -- a founder of the NRCC's Young Guns program -- was the freshman representative to the House Republican Steering Committee, which sets committee assignments. Now in his third term, McCarthy is third in House Republican leadership as the Majority Whip.
"I think colleagues do remember those who went over and above," Israel said.
"And Dina has gone over and above."
Titus' schedule opened up after being drawn into the 1st district in redistricting and avoiding what would have been a costly and contentious June 12 primary with state Sen. Ruben Kihuen, a rising star who dropped out in deference to Titus. She is running for the seat of Rep. Shelley Berkley (D), who is challenging Sen. Dean Heller (R).
Her new district includes the urban core of Las Vegas and, at 37 percent, has by far the highest Latino voting-age population of the state's four districts. Barring a primary challenge, Titus should be safe for the next decade.