Senator Dean Heller, R-Nev., is right down there with Senator Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., as one of the least popular Republicans running for reelection in 2018. Heller was one of seven GOP senators to break their longstanding promise to repeal Obamacare, voting against a clean repeal bill he had previously voted for in 2015 – when it had no chance of passing.
His betrayal has had repercussions. His approval rating in Nevada is a dismal 22 percent, opening the door for a conservative candidate to challenge and primary Heller.
Nevada businessman and perennial candidate for office, Danny Tarkanian wants to be that candidate.
Tuesday morning, Tarkanian announced his candidacy for Senate on Fox News, criticizing Heller as a #NeverTrump Republican insufficiently supportive of the “America-first agenda.”
US Senate Announcement on FoxNews
ICYMI: My announcement on Fox News that I am a candidate for United States Senate against Senator Dean Heller. Please visit www.tarknv.com to join the team.Posted by Danny Tarkanian on Tuesday, August 8, 2017
“Dean Heller wasn’t just one of the first NeverTrumpers in Nevada, he was one of the most influential. He actually helped Hillary Clinton win the state of Nevada,” Tarkanian claimed. “I fully supported President Trump to the end of the campaign.”
Blasting Heller for obstructing Trump’s agenda and “derailing any momentum” to repeal Obamacare, Tarkanian pledged to support the America-first agenda.
Danny Tarkanian: "We're never going to make America great again unless we have Senators in office who fully support President Trump." pic.twitter.com/qUFdrIHlKX— Fox News (@FoxNews) August 8, 2017
Tarkanian listed a litany of Sen. Heller’s broken promises, insisting that Nevadans are “sick and tired” of politicians who promise one thing and then do the opposite after the election.
“Dean Heller has broken one promise after another to the people of Nevada. He promised to repeal Obamacare and in fact he voted for that two years ago. But when he had the chance to actually get it repealed, he voted against it. He campaigned on the fact that he would defund Planned Parenthood, and then he had this crazy crowd at the town hall ask him about whether he would support Planned Parenthood — and he promised to continue to fund it. He said he was against illegal immigration, and then he’s one of the senators out there trying to grant amnesty to the illegal immigrants.”
“I have true convictions for what I stand for,” Tarkanian said.
This is not Tarkanian’s first foray into politics. In 2012, Tarkanian ran for Congress in Nevada’s 4th Congressional District, losing to Democrat Steven Horsford. He ran again in 2016, this time in Nevada’s 3rd district, losing to Democrat Jacky Rosen by just one percentage point. He has previously run for federal and state offices numerous times since 2004.
So who is he? Danny Tarkanian, 55, is a commercial real estate developer from Las Vegas, the son of UNLV’s Hall of Fame basketball coach Jerry Tarkanian. He is the founder of the non-profit Tarkanian Basketball Academy, an organization that helps at-risk youth develop basketball and life skills. Tarkanian earned his bachelor’s degree at UNLV, and his law degree at the University of San Diego. He has worked as a lawyer, served as assistant coach with his father in Division I basketball, and started his own real estate development firm.
Danny and his wife, Amy, together have four children.
What does he stand for? Tarkanian has consistently run for office as a conservative firebrand. In 2010, he positioned himself as a Tea Party candidate in the Republican primary. Repealing Obamacare, opposing Common Core, and supporting a border wall along the southern border were mainstay positions of his 2016 campaign for Congress.
Tarkanian is also staunchly pro-life. In a 2012 debate, Tarkanian said he believes "life starts at conception, and if life starts at conception you have to do what you can to preserve life." He has campaigned on defunding Planned Parenthood at least since 2012. In March 2016, he told a reporter he would “absolutely” support defunding Planned Parenthood if elected to Congress.
"Why do we have to give $800 million to an entity that is providing such a divisive service as abortions and then coming out and seeing how they’re selling body parts and all those other things?" he said.
In the age of Trump, Tarkanian seems to be tailoring his 2018 campaign against Heller to the president’s populist America-first message. It remains to be seen if his conservatism will be a feature of his campaign, or if it will be pushed aside in favor of a more anti-establishment, populist campaign.