Danny Tarkanian, the son of a legendary Nevada college basketball coach who has run for office several times, announced Tuesday morning that he will challenge Sen. Dean Heller in Nevada’s Republican primary next year.
Tarkanian announced his bid on "Fox and Friends," where he criticized Heller as a "Never-Trumper" and said that his stance on the president helped Hillary Clinton carry the state.
"So many people have contacted me in the past few months, saying ‘You got to run against Dean Heller,’" Tarkanian said. "They understand, like I do, that we’re never going to make America great again unless we have senators in office supporting President Trump. Dean Heller wasn’t just one of the first Never-Trumpers in the state of Nevada, he was one of the most influential. He actually helped Hillary Clinton win the state of Nevada."
Heller’s campaign fired back in a statement of its own.
"Danny Tarkanian is a perennial candidate who has spent millions of dollars on five campaigns over the last decade," Heller spokesman Tommy Ferraro said in the statement. "Nevada voters have rejected him every time — including less than a year ago against Jacky Rosen. He has 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."
Heller is considered the most vulnerable Republican senator in the country in the 2018 election, as the only one holding a seat in a state carried by Clinton last year. Tarkanian began furiously criticizing Heller earlier this year when the senator announced he would oppose the initial Senate Republican health care bill. Heller ended up voting for the "skinny repeal" proposal and against others on the Senate floor in July.
Tarkanian, the son of the late University of Nevada, Las Vegas basketball coach Jerry Tarkanian, has made numerous unsuccessful runs for office in the state — but he is well-known and has won several primaries in recent years. Tarkanian made losing bids for Nevada Secretary of State in 2006, U.S. Senate in 2012 and Nevada’s 4th Congressional District in 2012. He came closest to winning office in 2016, losing the 3rd District to Rep. Jacky Rosen by less than 2 percentage points.
Rosen, who jumped into the race with support from the likes of the DSCC and former Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid, is now the likely Democratic candidate against Heller in 2018.