EXCLUSIVE: Interview With Danny Tarkanian, The Republican Taking On Nevada’s Dean Heller


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Ted Goodman Contributor
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Nevada businessman, attorney and former athlete Danny Tarkanian, the son of legendary University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV) basketball coach Jerry Tarkanian, is officially taking on Sen. Dean Heller in the Nevada Republican Senate primary.

“I believe it’s very important to do what you promise on the issues, and Dean Heller hasn’t done that,” Tarkanian told The Daily Caller News Foundation Tuesday. “He turned his back on us.”

Tarkanian said that the GOP base in Nevada is “very upset” and “disenchanted” with Heller on issues including health care, immigration and Planned Parenthood. He decided to challenge Heller in the primary after over one hundred calls from friends, supporters and activists asking him to run.

“So many people have been calling me, and asking me to run,” he said.

A poll conducted by the Republican-leaning firm Strategic National showed Heller’s vulnerability in a primary battle. The poll, which surveyed 500 registered Nevada Republicans on Aug. 1 and 2, revealed that Heller holds a 31 percent approval rating, with a 43 percent disapproval rating. (EXCLUSIVE: Poll Shows Nevada’s Dean Heller Vulnerable In GOP Primary)

The poll further revealed that Heller may face stiff competition from both Tarkanian, and Nevada Republican Rep. Mark Amodei, should he enter the race.

In a three-way primary between Heller, Amodei and Tarkanian, Amodei recieved 27 percent to Heller’s 26 percent, well within the margin of error of 4.4 percent. Tarkanian received 21 percent.

Head to head versus Tarkanian, Heller received 38 percent to Tarkanian’s 34 percent, also within the margin of error. Twenty-seven percent said they were undecided between the two.

“He [Heller] promised he was going to repeal Obamacare and then voted against the repeal,” Tarkanian said.

Heller voted in favor of the GOP Senate’s failed “skinny repeal” of the Affordable Care Act, after opposing the GOP Senate’s initial health care repeal and replacement plan.

His opposition to the clean repeal came two years after he supported similar legislation, a fact that frustrated some on the right.

Heller’s position on health care has not only irked conservatives, but also Democrats in a state that voted for Democratic Party candidate Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential election.

“Not only was Heller one of the first never-Trumpers; he helped Hillary Clinton win the state of Nevada,” Tarkanian asserted.

He is no stranger to the Nevada political scene, having ran for public office on five previous occasions — a point Heller’s campaign made clear Tuesday.

“Danny Tarkanian is a perennial candidate who has spent millions of dollars on five campaigns over the last decade. Nevada voters have rejected him every time – including less than a year ago against Jacky Rosen,” Heller campaign spokesperson 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.”

In 2016, Tarkanian narrowly lost as the Republican candidate for Nevada’s 3rd congressional district. Tarkanian lost to Nevada Democratic Rep. Jacky Rosen 47.2 percent to 46 percent.

Tarkanian also lost a congressional bid in 2012, a Senate primary in 2010, a secretary of state run in 2006 and a state Senate race in 2004.

He supported Trump in the general election, and said that the president has done a “very good job” pushing his policies that he promised moving forward. He also took a shot at the media.

“The media’s been horrible to the president,” Tarkanian told TheDCNF. “My mom’s a Democrat, and she’s so outraged by how the media is treating the president.”

When asked about his record of failed bids for office, Tarkanian brought up his legendary father.

“My dad, when he first started coaching, he always took on the more established schools and took his fair share of losses. He kept working hard and kept getting stronger better, and ended up winning,” he said.

Tarkanian’s father coached UNLV to four NCAA Mens Basketball Final Four appearances, winning the national championship in 1990.

“My political career is similar. I’ve taken on both the primary and the general, and I’ve gotten close. “I keep working at it, I keep persevering,” he said.

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