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Bernie Sanders-backed candidate looks to unseat moderate Democrat in latest test for progressive wing of party

Progressive Democrat and activist Amy Vilela is making a bid in Nevada’s Tuesday Democratic primary to oust longtime moderate incumbent Rep. Dina Titus, D-Nev., from the congressional seat she’s held for nearly a decade in the latest electoral test for the progressive wing of the party.

In exclusive interviews with Fox News Digital, each of the candidates made the case as to why they were the right person to represent voters in Nevada’s 1st Congressional District, with Titus arguing she was the true “progressive” in the race and Vilela claiming voters were struggling with Titus’ “complacency” preventing real change.

“We are really struggling in Las Vegas, and it’s time to have some bold leadership that is ready to go and fight for change,” Vilela said when asked about the state of the race. “People are responding positively. They’re ready for leadership that isn’t complacence.”

“They want someone who understands the struggle of the working class and who is willing to take that work experience to Washington, D.C., to fight for all of us,” she added.

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Vilela, an accountant turned activist following the death of her daughter from health complications in 2015, who she said was turned away from a hospital for not having insurance, is backed by some of the most progressive politicians in the country, including Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., “Squad” member Rep. Cori Bush, D-Mo., and Democratic Ohio State Sen. Nina Turner, and says she is running to fight for “bold, transformational change.”

Titus, however pushed back on Vilela being classified as a progressive Democrat and argued that she was the real progressive candidate.

“Amy should describe herself as a socialist Democrat, not a progressive Democrat,” Titus said when asked about her classification as the centrist Democrat in the race. “I’m probably the most progressive member of the [Nevada] delegation and people know it.”

“My record on environmental issues, labor issues, Medicare for All — that’s well established in the district, so she has a hard time painting me with that brush,” she added.

Titus said she was feeling “confident” going into the primary and touted her endorsements from EMILY’s List, a pro-choice group, Moms Demand Action, a gun-control group, and other labor unions and environmental groups.

Rep. Dina Titus, D-Nev., does a TV interview outside of the U.S. Capitol before a House vote on Thursday, April 23, 2020.

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When it came to the economy, however, neither candidate seemed to have an answer to the issue concerning Americans most: rapidly rising inflation.

According to Titus, the massive $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill signed into law by President Biden last November was “putting people back to work,” which she claimed “helps” with inflation, but she didn’t offer any other explanation for the issue hitting Americans in their pocketbooks beyond blaming oil companies for record high gas prices.

Vilela also didn’t offer any solution to the inflation crisis besides holding oil companies accountable for “profiteering” when it came to the price of gas. She did, however, argue that elected officials needed to keep their promises and stop prioritizing donor bases over getting things done.

She went on to accuse Titus of putting “donors and corporations” over the needs of her constituents and touted her own campaign fundraising as coming mostly from small individual contributions.

“When you have that kind of money funneling into your campaign, you don’t have the ability to be as bold and forthright with what you plan to do for the working class,” she said, adding that she would be a “servant of the people” if elected.

Nevada Democratic congressional candidate Amy Vilela appears alongside Rep. Cori Bush, D-Mo., and Democratic Ohio State Sen. Nina Turner at a campaign event on Feb. 19, 2022 in Boulder City, NV.

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Amid President Biden’s increasingly low approval rating and concerns it could hurt down-ballot Democrats, Titus argued the party needed to talk about what they had “delivered” to voters, such as the infrastructure bill, and said she wasn’t “afraid” to have Biden visit Nevada to campaign.

When asked if she thought Biden should run for president again in 2024, she stressed she was only focused on winning her primary, but that she still supported the president.

Vilela didn’t answer whether she would become the newest member of the far-left “Squad” if elected, but said her support was “not guaranteed” and that it depended on the issues her colleagues were willing to fight for.

“I will definitely join forces with anyone pushing for legislation that addresses the needs of the working class,” she said.

President Biden clears his throat as he announces new steps requiring government to buy more made-in-America goods during remarks on March 4, 2022. 

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While giving her final thoughts ahead of the primary and reasons why voters should choose her, Titus touted her experience in office.

“I have the record of getting things done. No one has ever questioned my integrity and people know what my work ethic is. I come home very weekend, so I stay on top of the issues that are here and let them inform the legislation that I support in Washington,” Titus said.

Vilela stressed she was “about the issues,” and that fighting for them could come down to people’s lives.

“I promised my daughter on her deathbed she would not have died in vain. I intend to keep that promise. Nothing I do can bring my daughter back, but I can sure fight for everyone else,” she said, naming issues like health care, discrimination and poverty.

Rep. Dina Titus D-Nev., speaks at the Nevada Democratic Party's election results watch party after winning her race against Republican challenger Joyce Bentley at Caesars Palace on Nov. 6, 2018 in Las Vegas, Nevada.

“We have to be fighting these things as if lives depend on it, because they do. And I will join any force that is willing to fo fight with me to make sure we have those types of policies passing,” she added.

Nevada’s primary election is on Tuesday, June 14.

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