September 16th, 2009
06:05 PM ET
13 years ago

2010 Challengers: Tarkanian seeks to defeat Reid

[cnn-photo-caption image= caption="Danny Tarkanian, pictured in this 1998 file photo with his father in the background, is currently the frontrunner in a crowded GOP field in Nevada's 2010 Senate race."]
WASHINGTON (CNN) - Danny Tarkanian sailed into Washington this week on a wave of polling data that indicates he - and other Republican Senate prospects - could defeat Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid next year.

Reid is a top target for national Republicans in 2010 - but the GOP faces a big problem: it has not settled on a candidate to challenge the Democratic leader. The GOP's best prospect, Rep. Dean Heller, took a pass on the race.

Now, Tarkanian is one of several Republicans who have either declared their candidacies or are eyeing a challenge to Reid in 2010. As the son of legendary UNLV basketball coach Jerry Tarkanian, the younger Tarkanian has immediate name recognition in the state - and is the frontrunner, at least for now, in a crowded GOP primary field.

The real estate entrepreneur described himself as a "fiscal and social conservative" during a visit to CNN Wednesday, painting Reid as out of touch with Nevada voters. He echoed national Republicans on ideas to reduce the cost of health care, such as tort reform and insurance portability; said the way to revive the economy is to invest in the private sector; and said that the United States needs to stay in Afghanistan to finish the job.

While Tarkanian did not embrace disgraced Sen. John Ensign and embattled Gov. Jim Gibbons, he stated that it would not be right to "turn your back" or "shun" the two highest-ranking Republicans in the state. But, he said, both are "separate from my race."

Reid - who watched the GOP defeat his friend and former Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle in 2004 - has made it clear in fundraising pitches and private conversations that he is ready for 2010. Reid has $7 million in the bank, and his campaign said the plan is to raise $25 million to make sure he wins a fifth term. A Reid spokesman dismissed Tarkanian's visit and the criticism directed at the majority leader.

"He is one of a dozen Republican candidates filed to run against Sen. Reid," said Reid spokesman Jon Summers. "They have the next year to work through their primary. In the meantime, Sen. Reid is going to keep working to improve the state's economy, help keep people in their homes and create jobs by making Nevada the leader in clean energy."

Tarkanian may lose his frontrunner status once former Nevada Republican Party Chair Sue Lowden formally declares her candidacy, says Nevada political expert Jon Ralston.

"She has a much better profile to beat Harry Reid," Ralston said. "She has to be seen as the favorite in the primary."

The logical way to win the primary is to get more voters to the polls - in which case, Tarkanian's challenge starts on the home front. His mother, Lois, is a Democrat on the Las Vegas City Council. And while Tarkanian assured me that his mother plans to vote for him in the general election, he wasn't counting on her help in nabbing the nomination: "I'm trying to switch her over to vote for me in the primary."

Follow Mark Preston on Twitter @prestoncnn

Filed under: 2010 • Nevada • Senate
soundoff (17 Responses)
  1. Jay T.

    Check what a crook this guy's dad is. No way this guy gets elected.

    September 16, 2009 06:08 pm at 6:08 pm |
  2. George Guadiane - Austerlitz, NY

    While Tarkanian did not embrace disgraced Sen. John Ensign and embattled Gov. Jim Gibbons, he stated that it would not be right to "turn your back" or "shun" the two highest-ranking Republicans in the state. But, he said, both are "separate from my race."

    NOT RIGHT??? You don't think it is reasonable, ethical, MORAL to denounce and distance yourself from moral, ethical, social abandon/failure? Really?? REALLY???
    Why, because of their rank?

    What would they have had to do before you would want to "turn your back on them," become Democrats?

    September 16, 2009 06:28 pm at 6:28 pm |
  3. S Callahana NYS

    lol..time for CNN to get the popcorn and kool aide ready...this is going to be some race. Sit tight.

    September 16, 2009 06:29 pm at 6:29 pm |
  4. John Black Hills/SD

    We hear every republican describing themselves as fiscal and social conservatives. They never add up to their claims because it's a fictional character in a poorly written script for reporters to use, when they're caught spending tax dollars for sex. It would be nice to hear one politician speak without their forked tongue telling tales of their moral superiority. Right........

    September 16, 2009 06:30 pm at 6:30 pm |
  5. Don't blame me-I voted for the american

    This is all good stuff libs, keep it coming.

    I collect all your rants about rounding up conservatives and anyone that disagrees with Obama. It makes very effective campaign material.

    Am I planning on scaring people with it. No, you've done that already.

    Thanks, suckers.

    September 16, 2009 06:30 pm at 6:30 pm |
  6. SLM

    Anyone from any party should be able to defeat Harry Reid. Even the Democrats can't be so desperate that they would actually vote for Reid.

    September 16, 2009 06:58 pm at 6:58 pm |
  7. Rafael VA

    Go get that liberal! We need change and real change now! Go GOP!

    September 16, 2009 07:04 pm at 7:04 pm |
  8. No Incumbents 2010

    Very interesting that Tarkanian doesn't denounce John Ensign or his misconduct. Looks like the Nevada Repukes are gonna have a dirty intra-party fight on their hands.

    September 16, 2009 07:11 pm at 7:11 pm |
  9. Gus The Willie

    it's interesting how in Nevada the Republicans with eat Republicans to get Harry Reid's seat. Perhaps the Republicans will allow themselves to go extinct, and give good ole Harry smooth sailing.

    September 16, 2009 07:12 pm at 7:12 pm |
  10. Truth-Bomb Thrower

    This is guy is a leading candidate for the U.S. Senate and the best you can do is an eleven-year-old picture? Nice newsgathering, CNN.

    September 16, 2009 07:23 pm at 7:23 pm |
  11. James

    I was always surprised that Nevada had a Democratic senator. The Mountain West states seem so conservative. If anything, with the influx of Hispanic Americans, those states would seem to be turning Democratic only now.

    September 16, 2009 07:27 pm at 7:27 pm |
  12. Russ

    Let's see same old talking points he hears from Rush, Glenn and a few of the so called top Republicants. Boy that's change we can believe in.

    September 16, 2009 07:32 pm at 7:32 pm |
  13. Jimmy the Greek

    What's his campaign web address??? I'll contribute to his campaign even though I don't live in NV.

    Reid = spineless weasel

    September 16, 2009 07:44 pm at 7:44 pm |
  14. patrick

    Nevada will lose all influence it has nationally if it rejects Reid. Why is he so bad anyway? Republican and Democrats need to realize that all senator and reps are not bad if they aren't associated with their party. Dems and Repub do good things for their states regardless of party. And if you are going to dump a senator Enzign should go. He is a hypocrite that espouses family values and then has an affair. The affair isn't the problem its the hypocrisy.

    September 16, 2009 07:55 pm at 7:55 pm |
  15. Linda C.

    You can spin it all you want CNN, the fact of the matter is that Reid is going down in 2010. Period!

    September 16, 2009 07:55 pm at 7:55 pm |
  16. AJ

    The man is a moron who can do nothing but trade on his fathers name. Really, dumb as a box of rocks.

    September 16, 2009 08:02 pm at 8:02 pm |
  17. CL

    I want to see if Tarkanian can stand up to Rush limbaugh. If he can't take a stand now then he toast. So, Mr. Tarkanian do you stand by Rush Limbaugh or not?

    September 16, 2009 11:04 pm at 11:04 pm |