Danny Tarkanian enters race against U.S. Sen. Reid

Former UNLV basketball player, basketball academy co-director and Las Vegas real estate professional Danny Tarkanian will run for the U.S. Senate seat occupied by Democratic Sen. Harry Reid.

“I’m very concerned about the direction Senator Reid is taking us in Washington,” Tarkanian said in a written statement about the Senate majority leader today. “We simply cannot continue to allow our federal government to borrow, spend and bail out entire industries at the expense of future generations of Nevadans.”

Tarkanian’s most recent victory in the public square was in a lawsuit against state Sen. Mike Schneider, D-Las Vegas.

On July 31, a jury in Las Vegas issued a verdict supporting claims that Schneider committed libel and defamation en route to a victory in a 2004 state Senate race over Tarkanian.

On Monday Schneider agreed to a settlement of $150,000 for Tarkanian and an agreement not to appeal the judgment.

Tarkanian referenced the case in the statement announcing his candidacy.

“As I learned in my recent court fight, sometimes you have to stand up against power to effect real change,” said Tarkanian, who will run as a Republican.

Tarkanian promised to take the same approach in the campaign for Reid’s seat.

“Mr. Reid, in partnership with (House) Speaker (Nancy) Pelosi (D-Calif.), is one of the principal architects of this unprecedented effort to expand Washington’s reach, and every day he succeeds in his mission, Nevada’s future is put at greater risk,” Tarkanian said.

In the past, Tarkanian has campaigned unsuccessfully for a seat in the state Senate and secretary of state.

Tarkanian, son of former University of Nevada, Las Vegas basketball coach Jerry Tarkanian and Las Vegas City Councilwoman Lois Tarkanian, is one of several candidates and potential candidates eyeing the Republican primary June 8.

They include former Assemblywoman Sharron Angle, attorney and former Marine Chuck Kozak and investment banker John Chachas.

“We’ve had a lot of interest in this race. I think that is a good sign Nevadans are tired of Harry Reid,” Angle said.

Republican officials are also hoping Rep. Dean Heller, R-Nev., will jump into the race. They view Heller as the most viable candidate to take down Reid, who has low approval ratings in Nevada but expects to raise $25 million to defend the seat.

National Republican Senatorial Committee Chairman John Conryn told the congressional newspaper The Hill that he “would love to have (Heller) run. He would be a formidable candidate.”

Nevada conservative Chuck Muth, who recently launched a political action committee called Dump Reid PAC, said he doesn’t think Tarkanian is the Republican with the best chance to win the seat.

“That’s what Republicans are looking for, who can beat Harry Reid in November,” Muth said. Muth mentioned Heller as the strongest choice, followed by Nevada Republican Party Chairwoman Sue Lowden.

If neither Heller nor Lowden run, Muth said Tarkanian would have a “fifty-fifty” chance of emerging victorious from the primary over Angle.

“It really all depends on whether (Heller) or (Lowden) gets in,” Muth said.

Just 34 percent of respondents to a Las Vegas Review-Journal poll in July gave Reid a favorable rating, making him vulnerable to a challenger despite raising large amounts of campaign money. The statewide poll of 400 registered voters was conducted by Mason-Dixon Polling & Research Inc. from July 14 through July 15.

After the Tarkanian announcement today, Reid campaign manager Brandon Hall said, “Senator Reid knows he has a campaign to run in 2010 and is ready to run an aggressive campaign against whoever emerges from the Republican primary.”

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