Tarkanian's Move To CD-3 Upends Senate Race


AP Photo/Ken Ritter

Republican congressional candidate Danny Tarkanian talks with a reporter Friday, March 16, 2018, at the Clark County Government Center in Las Vegas about President Donald Trump asking him to switch from running for U.S. Senate to running for a Congress seat in Nevada. Tarkanian said Trump was "adamant," and said that he plans as a Congressman to be a steadfast supporter of Trump and his policies.

It was a busy week in Nevada politics.

Danny Tarkanian spared Dean Heller a tough primary race for the U.S. Senate race. 

Tarkanian decided to step out of the race for Senate and move to running for Congressional District 3, the seat being vacated by Jacky Rosen, who is running for Senate on the Democratic ticket.

The move came after a tweet by President Donald Trump noting that he would like to see Heller run unopposed.

Jon Ralston with the Nevada Independent said the president's people contacted Tarkanian to make the move.

Ralston says the change frees Heller from having to spend millions of dollars on a primary race against Tarkanian. Now, he can focus his efforts on defeating Jacky Rosen. 

As for Tarkanian, Ralston calls him a "heavy favorite" in the primary race against Scott Hammond, Victoria Seaman and Michelle Mortensen.

However, he is not so sure about his chances in the general election against Susie Lee, the likely Democratic candidate for CD3.

"I think that Lee is a significant favorite in that race for a variety of reasons," Ralston said, "Danny Tarkanian, as everybody knows, as run five times before. He has never won a general election although he has won primaries."

Ralston said Tarkanian's name recognition helps him initially, but he starts to lose points in polling because of some of the baggage that comes with him, including some of his financial issues.

Support comes from

Tarkanian has sued over allegations having to do with his finances and has won in one case.

Ralston says that Lee is a well-funded candidate and was a good candidate in the last race she was involved in. She lost the Democratic primary race for Congressional District 4 to Ruben Kihuen, who was backed by the powerful Culinary Union.

Kihuen has decided not to run for re-election after allegations of sexual harassment surfaced. Ralston said there were rumblings that Kihuen had changed his mind and was going to file.

But apparently, he decided against that because he did not file by Friday's filing deadline. 

Just before the filing deadline, the Clark County Republican Party worked to boost the number of Republican candidates in state races by offering to pay filing fees for people running for Assembly and Senate.

Ralston called the effort "desperate" and said there were a few takers but, "it would be nothing short of a miracle for the Democrats to lose the Assembly this time," Ralston said.

In addition, the Republicans effort to gain seats in the Senate maybe falling short, Ralston said.

Republican leader Michael Roberson was behind an effort to recall two state senators, but the recall was dealt a setback in court. A judge ruled that people who want to take their names off the petition to recall State Senators Nicole Cannizzaro and Joyce Woodhouse can do so.

Ralston said the idea was to quickly recall the two senators, hold a special election over the holidays when no one is really paying attention and get voters in the Republican base out to the polls. 

It did not work out that way. Democrats launched a decline to sign the petition campaign and filed lawsuits to block the recalls. 

"It was very cynical, insidious ploy that did not work," Ralston said.

Those behind the recall are appealing the judge's ruling to the Nevada Supreme Court. 

But if the ruling stands and people can remove their names from the petition, Ralston believes there won't be enough signatures to recall Cannizzaro and he thinks it is unlikely there would be enough to recall Woodhouse.

While politics in Nevada heat up as we move closer to the November election, the other story that is getting even more attention is the battle among UNLV President Len Jessup, Chancellor Thom Reilly, the Board of Regents and top university donors.

Ralston said at issue is really who runs the system - the Board of Regents or the university donors.

The whole thing started when Reilly and the regents decided that Jessup was doing well at one portion of his job - cultivating donors. But they felt he was not doing well at the other part of his job - managing the university, according to Ralston.

The Nevada Independent reported that Reilly had asked Jessup to go or he would be fired. However, major donors, including the Engelstad Family Foundation said it would take back its donation to the new medical school  - if Jessup left.

Ralston said that many donors feel that Jessup is doing a good job and it's the regents who are incompetent.

The long-term fallout from the fight, Ralston said, could be the effort to find another qualified candidate for the job.

"If you're a high-quality academic and you want to be the president of a university and you're a great administrator, why would you want to enter that hornet's nest where you have this constant internal fractionalization in the Board of Regents and the to-and-fro between the regents and the donors? Who wants to take that job?"

Ralston believes the solution going forward is to appoint the regents rather than have them be elected.


Jon Ralston, the Nevada Independent

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