Republican Danny Tarkanian might have had an audience of one for his announcement that he is challenging incumbent GOP Sen. Dean Heller: President Donald Trump.
Tarkanian said on “Fox & Friends” Tuesday that the incumbent hasn’t been supportive of Trump’s agenda, calling him a “Never-Trumper.”
“I’m very excited I’m going to announce I’m going to run for United States Senate here in Nevada against Dean Heller,” Tarkanian said. “So many people have contacted me over the last couple of months saying you’ve got to run against Dean Heller. They understand as I do that we’re never going to make America great again unless we have senators in office that fully support President Trump and his ‘America First’ agenda.”
That Tarkanian announced his candidacy on “Fox & Friends” might be no coincidence, since it is a program frequently watched by Trump.
The Fox News appearance came around 4 a.m. in Las Vegas, meaning Tarkanian may have been hoping that the president was tuning in from his vacation spot in Bedminster, N.J.
Trump retweeted three stories from the show Tuesday morning, but did not mention Tarkanian.
The Las Vegas businessman and son of legendary UNLV Runnin’ Rebels basketball coach Jerry Tarkanian, Danny Tarkanian has been something of a perennial candidate for political office in Nevada, and has made multiple bids for the House.
“Dean Heller wasn’t just one of the first Never-Trumpers in Nevada, he was one of the most influential,” Tarkanian said of Heller, arguing that the current senator in effect helped Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton carry Nevada.
“Now, even after President Trump’s been elected, Dean Heller has obstructed his agenda,” Tarkanian said. “That grandstand press conference he had derailed any momentum to get the health care bill repealed.”
That was a reference to Heller’s appearance alongside Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval to criticize an earlier draft of the legislation to roll back the 2010 health care law.
Heller spokesperson Tommy Ferraro said the campaign was “not surprised” that Tarkanian would announce a challenge.
“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,” Ferraro said. “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.”
The Inside Elections with Nathan L. Gonzales rating for the Nevada Senate race was already Toss-Up, and with freshman Rep. Jacky Rosen, D-Nev., already in the field, Heller has a credible challenger from the left.
Rosen defeated Tarkanian last year.
In a statement posted to his campaign website, Tarkanian is seeking to cast himself as a conservative challenging “liberal” forces within the GOP.
“I am a conservative Republican who supports the policies of President Trump to repeal Obamacare and end illegal immigration. I will continue to support President Trump’s policies that have led to a 20% increase in the stock market in just six months. I will join Senator Lee, Senator Cruz, and Senator Paul fighting for real reforms against the liberals in our party,” he said.