Gibbons attacks Titus—and himself?

Republican candidate for governor Jim Gibbons lost his lead in the polls last week and promptly responded by going negative.

A Wall Street Journal survey of 540 Nevada voters found Democratic candidate Dina Titus running 3 percentage points ahead of Gibbons. That is within the margin of error of the poll but is also the best showing Titus has had against Gibbons.

Gibbons quickly put a television spot on the air that attacked her for voting for a litany of taxes. This is the text of the commercial:

“Just what does Dina Titus vote to tax? Medical devices purchased by Medicare and Medicaid, rising property and sales taxes, marriage licenses, hunting and fishing licenses, motor vehicle fees, farm equipment and jet fuel. Dina Titus even taxed us on using the county swimming pools. That makes her one of the biggest taxers in Nevada history. Dina Taxes—er, rather, Dina Titus. Either way, she’ll raise our taxes.”

The penultimate line is reminiscent of a famous line of U.S. Sen. Joseph McCarthy of Wisconsin, who said, “Strangely, Alger—I mean, Adlai…” in a speech, conflating the name of convicted perjurer Alger Hiss with that of Democratic presidential candidate Adlai Stevenson.

Titus replied with a statement calling Gibbons a hypocrite who voted repeatedly for tax increases and higher spending: “A name-calling attack ad unleashed on unsuspecting voters today should serve to illuminate the hypocrisy of Republican Congressman Jim Gibbons, who as a Nevada legislator voted to raise taxes and fees more than 100 times, and as a member of the House of Representatives has sent the federal deficit to astronomical heights. Congressman Gibbons cast the deciding vote to raise the debt limit (final vote: 215-214), allowing the Republican- controlled administration to resume deficit spending after four previous years of balanced budgets.”

She also called attention to her own role in capping property taxes at 3 percent, noting that Washoe County Sen. Randolph Townsend, a Republican, said of Titus, “She has helped bring about the level of relief we have today.”

Her campaign then produced research showing that Gibbons himself, as a state legislator, had voted to raise the marriage license fee (at the 1989 legislature), increase the hunting and fishing license fee (1993), and increase car registration fees (1989). In addition, they said the swimming pool measure didn’t raise taxes, it only enabled the local governments to do so “to support the operation and maintenance of a swimming pool.”

In attacking Titus for voting for the marriage license fee, Gibbons is opposing the principal source of funding for domestic abuse programs in Nevada. The increase in the marriage license fee was devoted to domestic violence agencies like Carson City’s Advocates to End Domestic Violence and Reno’s Committee to Aid Abused Women.