92°F
weather icon Clear

Danny Tarkanian to run for US Senate seat held by Dean Heller

Updated August 8, 2017 - 5:40 pm

Frequent candidate Danny Tarkanian said Tuesday he will challenge fellow Republican Dean Heller, Nevada’s vulnerable incumbent senator, in 2018.

In a statement announcing his candidacy, Tarkanian said Heller “turned his back on us.”

“I think Dean Heller’s changed his position on so many different votes that he’s lost so much credibility with the voters,” Tarkanian said in an interview with the Review-Journal. “He keeps breaking his promise to voters in Nevada. They feel they can’t trust him anymore.”

Heller’s campaign dismissed Tarkanian as a “perennial candidate.”

“Nevada voters have rejected him every time — including less than a year ago against Jacky Rosen,” Heller’s campaign spokesman Tommy Ferraro said in a statement. “He’s wasted conservatives’ time and cost the Republican Party seats up and down the ballot. If he ultimately files for U.S. Senate he will lose in the primary.”

Tough primary ahead

Tarkanian’s announcement sets up a tough primary battle with Heller, who has faced recent pressure from both Democrat and Republican groups. U.S. Rep. Jacky Rosen, a Democrat, also wants the seat.

Heller was considered vulnerable before Tarkanian announced his intentions, partly due to the Senate’s failed attempts to repeal the Affordable Care Act, also called Obamacare.

After pushing for most of his senate career to repeal the health care law, Heller changed his approach in June, when joined Gov. Brian Sandoval to publicly oppose a proposal to repeal Obamacare. The move sparked the America First Policies super PAC, which is run by President Donald Trump’s former campaign advisers, to launch a $1 million ad campaign against him the next day.

That ad campaign was cut short, but during a July meeting in which Trump attempted to persuade GOP senators to repeal Obamacare, the president issued a not-so-veiled threat to Heller.

Trump, sitting next to Heller, remarked “He wants to remain a senator, doesn’t he?” as Heller grinned.

Despite voting in line with his party for the for the Senate’s so-called “skinny repeal,” Nevada voters are unhappy with Heller, according to recent polls.

A survey by Public Policy Polling showed that 22 percent approve of Heller’s job performance, compared to 55 percent who disapproved.

Strategic National, a Republican-leaning consulting firm, reported that Heller’s approval rating among Nevada Republicans is 31 percent, according to The Daily Caller. That poll also found that 43 percent of Nevada GOP voters disapprove of Heller.

The Strategic National poll also pitted Heller and Tarkanian against each other, with 38 percent support to Heller and 34 percent to Tarkanian. The results fell within the poll’s 4.4 percent margin of error.

The Senate GOP’s campaign arm released a statement soon after Tarkanian announced his run, saying it stands firmly with Nevada’s senior senator. Heller was appointed to the Senate in 2011 and won re-election in 2012.

“Time and again, Senator Dean Heller has proven he is unafraid to put Nevadans first,” said National Republican Senatorial Committee spokesman Michael McAdams. “The NRSC fully supports Senator Heller in his primary and general elections, and we are confident he will be re-elected.”

Tarkanian with Trump

In a statement, Tarkanian said he is “proudly on the team of President Trump,” and supports Trump’s policies to repeal Obamacare, end sanctuary cities and defund Planned Parenthood.

Tarkanian accused Heller of helping Hillary Clinton win Nevada last year by being a “Never Trumper,” and blasted him for his stances on the GOP’s multiple pushes to repeal Obamacare.

Tarkanian said he not spoken to any third-party groups about support. A spokeswoman for America First Policies did not respond to requests for comment.

Tarkanian’s history

Tarkanian, the son of the legendary UNLV basketball coach Jerry Tarkanian, is a businessman and attorney who has run unsuccessfully for secretary of state, state senate and the U.S. House and Senate. He won the Republican nomination in four of those five runs.

He did not make the general election in 2011 — when he last ran for U.S. Senate.

Tarkanian lost that GOP primary, coming in third to former state Sen. Sue Lowden and eventual nominee Sharron Angle. Angle went on to lose to Harry Reid in the general election.

But, Tarkanian is coming off the closest election of his career.

He defeated the party-favored Michael Roberson in last year’s GOP primary for Nevada’s 3rd Congressional District before losing to Rosen in the general by less than 1.5 percentage points. Tarkanian’s three previous general election losses were by about 8 percentage points.

If Tarkanian and Rosen face off in November, he said he intends to use a pending defamation lawsuit he filed against her and her campaign.

The lawsuit centers on television and social media ads that used Tarkanian’s past role as the registered agent for companies that acted as fronts for fraudulent charities. One ad, for example, said “seniors lost millions from scams Danny Tarkanian helped set up.” Registered agents typically have a limited role and do not deal in day-to-day operations. Similar ads were used against Tarkanian in his other election bids.

“Jacky Rosen ran her whole campaign against me using defamatory attacks. She went as low as possible to get elected,” Tarkanian said.

Rosen spokeswoman Ivana Brancaccio said the congresswoman is confident the lawsuit will be dismissed.

“While Danny Tarkanian is clearly playing political games, Congresswoman Rosen is serving her constituents and fighting for Nevada,” Brancaccio said.

Contact Colton Lochhead at clochhead@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-4638. Follow @ColtonLochhead on Twitter. Contact Sean Whaley at swhaley @reviewjournal.com or 775-461-3820. Follow @seanw801 on Twitter.

Don't miss the big stories. Like us on Facebook.
Politics Videos
The Right Take: Biden's Racially Questionable Comments
Joe Biden has uttered racially charged statements for years. Now that he’s the frontrunner for the Democrat presidential nomination, he may finally face prolonged scrutiny for them.
Christopher Rufo Discusses Homelessness In The USA - VIDEO
Christopher Rufo discusses homelessness in the United States and how politicians can work to improve conditions for those with drug addictions.
Clark County 2019 Election Results - Video
The 2019 Elections wrap up in Clark County including an upset in the Boulder City Mayor race.
Olivia Diaz talks about her win in Ward 3 - VIDEO
Las Vegas City Councilwoman-elect Olivia Diaz talks about her election win in Ward 3 and what lies ahead for her.
Greene discusses Read by 3 and Opportunity Scholarships - VIDEO
The Nevada Legislative Session is over and the results are mixed for Nevada students, according to Tom Greene, Senior regional legislative director, Excel in Ed in Action.
Bernie Sanders visits Las Vegas
Sen. Bernie Sanders made a stop at Roy W. Martin middle school on Thursday, during his campaign trail.
Kamala Harris campaigns in Las Vegas
Democratic Sen. Kamala Harris castigated President Donald Trump’s merit-based immigration plan, saying it was “short-sighted” and overlooked the cultural significance of family, during a campaign stop in Las Vegas. “We cannot allow people to start parsing and pointing fingers and creating hierarchies among immigrants,” Harris told Asian Pacific Islander leaders at a Chinatown restaurant, one of two appearances she made Thursday.
The Right Take New Education Funding Plan - VIDEO
On Monday, Senate Education Committee chair Mo Denis, D-Las Vegas, released a new education funding formula. For years, many Democrat politicians have criticized the current education funding formula, called the Nevada Plan. They claim it’s old and outdated. Their biggest beef is that it doesn’t allocate more money for students who are English Language Learners or live in poverty. The theory is that it’s harder to educate those students and so they need additional services, which costs additional money.
Kamala Harris campaigns in Nevada
California Senator Kamala Harris meets with One APIA Nevada, a nonprofit organization that advocates for policies empowering Asian Pacific Islander Nevadans. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Ben Carson talks housing (Audio only)
Ben Carson discusses housing with the Review-Journal editorial board on Thursday. (Audio only)
Ben Carson visits the RJ (Full Audio Only)
Ben Carson discusses housing with the Review-Journal editorial board on Thursday. (Audio only)
Former Vice President Joe Biden campaigns in Nevada
After campaigning at the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades District Council 16 in Henderson, former Vice President Joe Biden spoke with the Review-Journal.
Student serenades Mayor Carolyn Goodman at swearing in
Students from the school she founded, The Meadows School, serenaded Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman during a swearing in ceremony for her third and final term. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
Al Gore Speaks At UNLV About Climate Change - Video
Former Vice President of the United States Al Gore talks to an audience at UNLV about the effects of Climate change and how to switch to renewable sources of energy.
Forum on Wages and Working People Highlights - VIDEO
Presidential candidates Elizabeth Warren, Beto O'Rourke, Kamala Harris, Amy Klobuchar, Julian Castro, and John Hickenlooper speak in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Nevada Politics Today Valerie Weber - VIDEO
Valerie Weber sits down with Victor Joecks to discuss her policies and why she is running for Ward 2 of the Las Vegas City Council.
Cory Booker speaks at UNLV
US Senator Cory Booker speaks at UNLV during a Young Democrats meet and greet on Thursday, April 18, 2019. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
May-Brown describes why some with disabilities need the subminimum wage - VIDEO
Eliminating the subminimum wage will end training and work opportunities for some members of the disabled community. Instead of doing something productive, they would be relegated to adult day care. That’s according to Tracy May-Brown, Opportunity Village’s director of advocacy, board and government relations.
Commission’s decision will delay Red Rock Canyon development
The Clark County Commission Wednesday rejected a developer’s request to approve a preliminary plan for 3,000 homes overlooking Red Rock Canyon before a federal agency grants permission for a roadway leading to the site.
Clark County commissioner calls on landlords to bring properties up to code
Clark County Commissioner Tick Segerblom has called on landlords in older parts of the valley to bring their properties up to code and keep them well-maintained or face the prospect of inspections, fines and citations. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
Harry Reid speaks out against anti-Semitism
Unnerved by the rise in anti-Semitic hate speech and the general pervasiveness of bigotry, including in Nevada, former U.S. Sen. Harry Reid organized an educational forum at UNLV on Thursday as part of his call to unite people against it. (Shea Johnson/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
President Trump speaks to the Republican Jewish Coalition in Las Vegas
President Donald Trump spoke at the Republican Jewish Coalition’s National Leadership Meeting in Las Vegas and updated on Israeli relations. (Heidi Fang/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Trump says border wall will have 'hundreds of miles' built by end of next year
President Donald Trump spoke at the Republican Jewish Coalition’s National Leadership Meeting in Las Vegas and discussed the progress of the border wall and the current relations there. (Heidi Fang/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Protesters disrupt Trump's speech
Just as President Donald Trump started to make his opening remarks during his appearance at the Republican Jewish Coalition’s National Leadership Meeting, protesters disrupted his speech. (Heidi Fang/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Roerink On The Problems With Taking Water From Eastern Nevada - Video
The Southern Nevada Water Authority wants to take billions of gallons of water that doesn’t exist from Eastern Nevada via a pipeline that would cost ratepayers $15 billion. Doing so would devastate the wildlife and people who live there. That’s according to Kyle Roerink, executive director of the Great Basin Water Network, which opposes the pipeline.
Las Vegas Election Night Wrap-Up
The Review-Journal's Politics and Government Editor, Steve Sebelius, wraps up election night. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
Olivia Diaz Speaks To Ward 3 Supporters After Primary Election - Video
Olivia Diaz speaks to her supporters at a election party after results started coming in for the Ward 3 primaries.
Oscar Goodman Speaks On Behalf Of Mayor At Primary Win (edited)
Oscar Goodman spoke Tuesday night on behalf of his wife, Carolyn, who won the mayoral primary election. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
Oscar Goodman Speaks On Behalf Of Mayor At Primary Win (Full)
Oscar Goodman spoke Tuesday night on behalf of his wife Carolyn, who won the mayoral primary election. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
Gun Debate Shows Limits Of Government - Video
On Monday, the Assembly and Senate Judiciary Committees held a joint hearing on Assembly Bill 291. It would ban bump stocks and allow local governments to pass additional restrictions on firearms.
Lucy Flores speaks out about Biden incident
Former Nevada assemblywoman, Lucy Flores, expresses her feelings about an incident with former Vice President Joe Biden in 2014. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @Vegas88s
Harry Reid takes the stand in injury lawsuit
Former U.S. Sen. Harry Reid took the stand on Thursday in the product liability lawsuit brought against the makers of a resistance exercise band that Reid blames for blinding him in one eye.
Jurors hear opening statements in Reid personal injury trial
Opening statements were made on Tuesday in the product liability lawsuit brought by Harry Reid against against the makers of a resistance exercise band that Reid blames for blinding him in one eye.
Mayor Goodman delivers Meals on Wheels
Mayor Carolyn Goodman delivers Meals on Wheels to seniors on March 26, 2019.
Las Vegas City Council Ward 1 race
Candidates for Las Vegas City Council Ward 1. (Shea Johnson/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
THE LATEST
Nevada gets $3M in settlement for ITT students

Attorney General Aaron Ford announced his office has reached a settlement with Student CU Connect CUSO, a company that offered loans for students attending ITT Tech that Ford called abusive.