Update 6:09 p.m.
Businessman Danny Tarkanian, who's challenging Heller in the Republican Senate primary, said he's deeply troubled by the "character assassination campaign" being directed at Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore amidst multiple allegations of decades-old sexual misconduct with teenagers.
In a statement, Tarkanian said it would be "at best, premature" to prevent Moore from taking office before he's proven guilty of the allegations.
"The accusations against Judge Moore are 40 years old and come just weeks before the election. People have every reason to be skeptical about the timing and nature of these attacks, especially with reported media payoffs and partisan attack dogs involved," he said in a statement. "Since the American principle of 'innocent until proven guilty' has not been repealed, and since such last-minute smears against conservative candidates have unfortunately become the “new normal” in politics today, I see no reason to abandon Judge Moore at this time."
Tarkanian also criticized Heller for joining the "DC feeding frenzy," and attacked establishment Republicans including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell for having "nakedly transparent" motivations in distancing themselves from Moore.
"They desperately want to keep this true, unapologetic conservative from joining their elite club on Capitol Hill, no matter what," he said.
Democratic Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto also weighed in on the controversy surrounding Moore on Tuesday, echoing Heller in saying the former Alabama Chief Justice should step aside.
"Senator Cortez Masto is disgusted by the reports out of Alabama on Roy Moore’s alleged history of sexual assault," Cortez Masto spokesman Ryan King said in a statement. "He should do the right thing and step aside."
Update 11:10 a.m.
In a statement first given to a conservative columnist at the Las Vegas Review-Journal, Republican. Sen Dean Heller joined several of his colleagues in the Senate calling on Roy Moore to drop out of the Alabama Senate race.
“I believe the women who have come forward,” he said, according to a statement Tuesday morning. “Roy Moore should do what is best for the conservatives of Alabama and step aside.”
Heller joins approximately 15 other Republican senators in calling for Moore to step out of the race following the publication of decades-old accusations of sexual misconduct and advances toward underage women while he was in his early 30’s.
Heller’s Senate office and campaign did not respond to multiple questions from The Nevada Independent over the last six days over the allegations against Moore.
Sen. Dean Heller has joined the chorus of Republican senators calling for Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore to drop out of the race if allegations of decades old sexual misconduct are proven to be true.
Although Heller’s Senate and campaign office did not return multiple requests for comment by The Nevada Independent on the allegations against Moore last week, the Republican senator told an ABC reporter that Moore should “step aside” if the allegations reported by The Washington Post last week that he initiated sexual contact with underage girls while he was in his early 30s are proven to be true.
At least four women told the newspaper that Moore attempted to date them while they were between the ages of 14 and 18 while the former Alabama Chief Justice was an assistant district attorney in his early 30s. A fifth woman, Beverly Young-Nelson, alleged at a Monday press conference that Moore sexually assaulted her when she was a 16-year-old waitress. Moore has denied the allegations of sexual misconduct and called them “fake news.”
More than 30 Republican senators — including Heller — have called on Moore to step aside if the allegations are proven to be true, according to a count by The New York Times. At least five Republican senators, including Arizona Sen. John McCain and Maine Sen. Susan Collins, have unequivocally called on Moore to drop out of special election to replace former Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions.
The National Republican Senatorial Committee — the fundraising arm for Republican senators — severed ties with Moore last week, and NRSC chairman and Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner said today that senators should vote to expel Moore if he’s elected.
At least 11 Republican senators have declined to publicly say whether Moore should withdraw from the race.
A progressive Super PAC, American Bridge 21st Century, launched a digital ad campaign over the weekend targeting Heller for staying silent on the allegations surrounding Moore. Heller is up for re-election in 2018 and is widely considered one of the most vulnerable senators in the nation.