Tark the Shark’s Senator Son?

Posted February 11, 2004 at 6:36pm

Perhaps since his famous father’s nickname was “Tark the Shark,” Republicans think Danny Tarkanian might be able to take a bite out of Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.).

His name has been floated as a possible GOP contender for Reid’s seat this fall, but so far, he hasn’t taken the bait.

“We’ve talked to him, as well as some of the other candidates being mentioned,” said Dan Allen, spokesman for the National Republican Senatorial Committee.

Tarkanian, son of legendary former University of Nevada at Las Vegas basketball coach Jerry Tarkanian, recently came to Washington, D.C., and talked to some GOP chieftains, but he has not said if he would enter the race.

Allen said Tarkanian, and several other possible candidates, have knocked on the NRSC’s door since Rep. Jim Gibbons (R-Nev.) begged out of the race last summer.

The committee tells each person the same thing, Allen said. Party operatives tell them they think Reid could be vulnerable and that the presidential race should help down-ballot Republican candidates. They talk about what kind of organization, commitment and money would be needed and then feel out how strong the person’s interest level is, Allen said.

In the case of Tarkanian, a non-practicing lawyer who has worked for his father’s basketball teams, “I’d let him say what his interest level is,” Allen said.

Tarkanian could not be reached for comment Wednesday.

While his name recognition might be tempting, Las Vegas political columnist Jon Ralston says Republicans should keep on looking.

“Seems some of the GOP geniuses [in Washington] think [the] son of Tark would be able to raise some out-of-state money based on Daddy’s name and might give Reid some trouble,” Ralston wrote in his e-mail newsletter this week. “There is a word for this kind of analysis by Washington, D.C., savants: idiotic.

“The Republicans are desperate,” Ralston continued. “The idea that [anyone] would think he is U.S. Senate timber is laughable,” Ralston said.

It does seem that the Tarkanian name would come with baggage.

Jerry Tarkanian did win a National Collegiate Athletic Association championship with the UNLV Runnin’ Rebels in 1990, but his coaching career was often marred by allegations of impropriety.

The latest scandal included son Danny, who was an assistant coach to the elder Tarkanian at Fresno State University.

The school finally admitted to four major violations outside of the basketball program, and the most serious allegation of point shaving produced two grand jury investigations but no convictions against Fresno State players, coaches or officials.

Many in Las Vegas saw the NCAA’s investigation as a witch hunt against the colorful Jerry Tarkanian.

Whether Danny Tarkanian’s reputation has been tarnished remains to be seen and if he, like so many others, opts out of the race, no one will ever know.

Brian Scroggins, Clark County Republican Party chairman, said he’s only “heard through the grapevine” that Tarkanian is eying a Senate run.

Tarkanian recently told Scroggins that he wanted to run for the state Senate, but he has yet to file for that race either.

The state’s filing deadline is May 1 but any serious challenger needed to get in the Senate race a year or more ago, state Controller Kathy Augustine told the Las Vegas Review-Journal in explaining why she was sitting out the Republican Senate primary.

After Gibbons begged off, attention turned to state Treasurer Brian Krolicki (R), who declined to run this week.

The only Republican in the race is Richard Ziser, an activist best known for spearheading several ballot initiatives, including one to ban gay marriages.

Republicans’ reluctance is understandable when one looks at Reid’s war chest. He started the year with $4.3 million in the bank.

“We wish any of the Republicans luck in the primary and look forward to running a campaign based on issues that are important to Nevada after the September primary,” said Reid campaign manager Sean Sinclair.