Danny Tarkanian doesn’t have Sarah Palin’s support exactly, but the candidate for the GOP nomination in the hard-fought Nevada senate primary does have the backing of her father and brother. And it may help.
Chuck Heath Jr., a 48-year-old schoolteacher from Anchorage, says both he and his dad receive constant requests for endorsements across the country, but grant few. So far they’ve endorsed just four candidates. “Of course, their ultimate goal is they want Sarah’s endorsement,” Heath explained during an interview Wednesday with The Daily Caller.
The Heaths first met Danny Tarkanian during the 2008 election. “Their family got really behind our family, and especially Sarah, and we kind of struck up a friendship that way,” Chuck Jr. said. Tarkanian, son of the famous coach and a former NBA player himself, bonded with the family over basketball. When Tarkanian called to say he was running for the nomination, Palin’s brother remembers, it wasn’t a tough call. “We told him, you worked for us and we believe in what you stand for also — and especially running against Harry Reid, we’ll do whatever we can to get behind you.”
The Tarkanian campaign has been using Palin’s father as a surrogate since last fall. In October, Chuck Sr. made five stops throughout the state for Tarkanian. In November, the retired schoolteacher signed a fundraising letter. In March, he cut a radio ad that’s still on the air today.
The Tarkanian campaign, says spokesman James Fisfis, has “certainly valued the endorsement” – which, while “it doesn’t guarantee any votes,” does “guarantee that you do get attention and people will take a look at your platforms and what you’re saying.” The presence of Palin’s father and son “shines attention on Danny,” he says. “We were able to have events and bring people together. They all wanted to meet and hangout with the Palins.”
Chuck Jr. says he doesn’t know if his sister plans to endorse a candidate in the Nevada primary, though he does concede they talk politics. “I don’t want to speak on her behalf and say ‘this is why I’m endorsing this person and this is why I’m not endorsing the other one.’ I just know it’s a lot more complicated than people think it is.”
In addition to Tarkanian, the Heaths have endorsed two candidates in Alabama: Stan Cooke, who is running for congress, and Tim James in the governor’s race. The pair also endorsed congressional candidate Vaughn Ward in Idaho, who on Tuesday lost in the primary.
As for Tarkanian, no matter what happens in his race, he may be seeing more of Chuck Sr. “He also invited Danny up to go moose hunting with him,” Fisfis says, laughing. “It’s hard to find time for that and it’s off-season for that, but we’re hoping we can get to that.”