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Tarkanian says Heller's newfound loyalty to Trump won't lead to endorsement

Riley Snyder
Riley Snyder
Election 2018

It’s been more than five months since Danny Tarkanian announced his bid to challenge Sen. Dean Heller in the Republican primary election, and Tarkanian has largely stuck to the same script — fealty to President Donald Trump and Heller’s alleged conservative failings.

Tarkanian largely hammered away at those same points at a speech and question-and-answer session with the Nevada Republican Men’s Club on Tuesday at the Bali Hai golf club, continuing to take aim at Heller despite the incumbent’s recent move to embrace Trump.

Tarkanian, who announced his bid challenging Heller in August, said in an interview that he wasn’t concerned with Vice President Mike Pence’s announced trip to Nevada later this week alongside Heller and didn’t foresee the move as foreshadowing a Trump endorsement of Heller.

“I don’t see that,” he said. “I’ve not had any indication that would happen, I don’t anticipate it happening, but facts are the facts. Heller is a Never Trumper, didn’t support Trump, tried to drive him out of the race.”

Heller kept his distance from Trump during the 2016 election cycle, at times displaying outright hostility and even returning campaign donations from the candidate following comments the future president made about undocumented Mexican immigrants. But Heller has moved to embrace the president over the last six months, championing the major tax overhaul bill and bragging to the Las Vegas Review-Journal that they have a “much closer” relationship.

Even so, Tarkanian said none of that mattered given Heller’s distancing from Trump during the 2016 election cycle, and especially in the aftermath of a leaked Access Hollywood recording of Trump making sexually inappropriate comments about women to actor Billy Bush.

“Our responsibility is to make sure, from Dean Heller’s own words, how he repudiated Trump in the elections, how he did so until I got in this race, and we’re going to do that,” Tarkanian said. “We’ll have the financial resources to do that, and no matter what Heller says or what happens in Washington D.C., those people in Nevada who knew how Heller was when Trump needed him most aren’t going to vote for him.”

Tarkanian declined to give an update on his fundraising totals for the most recent Federal Election Commission quarterly reporting deadline (the reporting deadline is Jan. 31 for contributions received through the end of the year), but said the campaign surpassed its fundraising goals over the past several months and that he planned to put his own money into the campaign.

“We did better than what we anticipated,” he said. “We had a better quarter than our budget had anticipated.”

Heller reported raising about $1.1 million in the last period, and had roughly $4.2 million in cash on hand. Tarkanian, who announced part way through the reporting period, reported raising $307,000 over the fundraising period, with $270,000 cash on hand.

He also laid out his priority on immigration policy, saying he supported the president’s effort to build a wall along with border with Mexico, and wanted to see an end to chain migration, expressed opposition to the concept of birthright citizenship and expansion of the E-verify system used to root out undocumented workers from the labor pool.

“I do not think that anyone who came to our country illegally should be provided with the greatest gift our country has to offer — citizenship,” he said.

Tarkanian said while he opposed a 2016 ballot question to legalize recreational marijuana, he thought the federal government should respect the wishes of Nevadans who voted to legalize the drug and not interfere with ongoing sales of recreational marijuana.

He also said he backs the concept of showing an identification card to vote, and would support a “full investigation and study” to determine how often voter fraud occurs. Most independent studies have found voter fraud to be extremely rare — a 2014 study found 31 credible allegations of voter impersonation out of more than 1 billion ballots cast over a 14-year period.

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