Tarkanian hopes for reversal of $17 million judgment

Congressional candidate Danny Tarkanian said Tuesday he doesn’t expect to win reversal of a $17 million federal judgment against him in court Monday, but he is hoping to win his case in the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals long after the Nov. 6 election.

The Federal Deposit Insurance Company is trying to collect from Tarkanian and his family, who invested the money in a bad real estate deal and are on the hook for loans from a failed bank. In May, a U.S. District Court judge ruled against Tarkanian, who is asking that the judgment be set aside.

On Monday, a federal judge in California will decide whether to reconsider the judgment against Tarkanian or side with the FDIC and allow it to stand.

“We have almost zero chance of winning this legal stuff,” Tarkanian said during an interview with the editorial board of the Las Vegas Review-Journal. “This is a very expensive case, and so you take every avenue to defend yourself and be successful.”

Tarkanian said it’s rare for a federal judge to grant a motion to reconsider a decision in a case like this, but he said it would be negligent of him not to try. He is hoping to show he and his family were the victims of loan fraud.

“It doesn’t change anything from where we were at,” Tarkanian said . “We’re still going to appeal it, and hopefully we’re going to be successful.”

If not, Tarkanian could be forced into bankruptcy, though his attorney has said the family is trying to avoid that.

Tarkanian, a Republican, suggested the $17 million judgment wouldn’t affect his campaign against Steven Horsford, the departing Democratic leader of the Nevada Senate. Still, Tarkanian probably will be attacked in TV ads on his real estate record and business sense.

Tarkanian and Horsford are running for Nevada’s new 4th Congressional District. It includes all or part of seven counties, including northern Clark County.

Tarkanian has the advantage in name recognition. His mother is Las Vegas City Councilwoman Lois Tarkanian; his father is former University of Nevada, Las Vegas basketball coach Jerry Tarkanian.

Horsford has the advantage in voter registration in the district, with Democrats having a 9 percentage point edge over Republicans.

Horsford, the first black state Senate majority leader, has represented the district’s urban core for eight years . Tarkanian said he is wooing African-American voters, using family ties and support from black leaders such as Frank Hawkins, president of the local chapter of the NAACP. About 16 percent of the district’s population is African-American. Another 27 percent is Hispanic.

Tarkanian, who played for UNLV under his coaching father, runs a nonprofit basketball academy in urban Las Vegas that caters to many of the community’s children, including those from black neighborhoods. His father was known for taking chances on recruits from inner-city areas, including future NBA star Larry Johnson.

“My dad’s worked in that community for a long time. And my mother has,” Tarkanian said. “My basketball academy, which is very close to the district, has a lot of players and families in that district that are in our academy now for 10 years.”

Hawkins has been introducing Tarkanian to black business leaders .

“One thing I found out was a lot of big business leaders in the African-American community feel that Horsford has ignored their community,” Tarkanian said. “He hasn’t been around, been accessible. And they’re willing to look for another candidate.”

Tarkanian said he was “going to go into the community as hard as we can” to win over black voters.

Black Democrats accused Tarkanian of using stereotypes in wooing black voters. The party issued a statement from Assemblywoman Dina Neal, Assemblymen Kelvin Atkinson, Steven Brooks, Jason Frierson, William Horne and Harvey Munford, and Nevada Senate candidates Aaron Ford and Patricia Spearman.

“Danny Tarkanian’s use of patronizing stereotypes has no place in American politics today,” the statement said. “Like all communities, Nevada’s African-American community will support candidates who focus on creating jobs, cracking down on the abuses of Wall Street and protecting Social Security and Medicare – not the kind of rhetoric of centuries past. Danny Tarkanian should immediately apologize for his offensive remark.”

In the editorial board interview, Tarkanian said he was reaching out to Hispanics, although his hard-line positions on immigration have turned off many Latino voters. He said he would appeal to Hispanics on economic issues because the Latino unemployment rate is higher than the 11.6 percent in Nevada.

Tarkanian said he supports extending Bush-era tax rates, saying that would encourage business development. He also wants to decrease regulations so companies don’t face so many government hurdles to expand and hire workers.

On his legal troubles, Tarkanian said his family had no reason to suspect the real estate deal would sour because one of their business partners had worked with the developer on other projects. He said the family closed on the loan for the California project in July 2007, and the developer defaulted in early August. The developer declared bankruptcy, blocking the Tarkanians and his partners from recouping the loan.

In 2010, the Tarkanians sued La Jolla Bank to block it from foreclosing on Las Vegas property used as collateral for the original $14.6 million loan.

The bank later failed, was accused of unsavory practices and was taken over by the FDIC, leaving the Tarkanians with little legal recourse and on the financial hook .

“For anybody to say that we’ve done anything wrong on our part, I think, is quite a bit misleading,” Tarkanian said.

Contact reporter Laura Myers at lmyers@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2919. Follow her on Twitter @lmyerslvrj.

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