Tarkanian drops Heller primary challenge to run for House seat

Danny Tarkanian is dropping his bid to unseat Nevada Sen. Dean Heller in the Republican primary and running for a Hou...

Posted: Mar 16, 2018 10:54 PM
Updated: Mar 16, 2018 10:54 PM

Danny Tarkanian is dropping his bid to unseat Nevada Sen. Dean Heller in the Republican primary and running for a House seat instead.

The Nevada GOP chair and Tarkanian's wife confirmed the move on Friday.

The major shakeup just hours from Nevada's filing deadline for the 2018 midterms comes after President Donald Trump publicly nudged Tarkanian to make the switch. It spares Heller -- the GOP's most endangered Senate incumbent -- from what would've been an expensive and bruising race.

Trump tweeted Friday afternoon: "It would be great for the Republican Party of Nevada, and it's unity if good guy Danny Tarkanian would run for Congress and Dean Heller, who is doing a really good job, could run for Senate unopposed!"

Tarkanian's wife, Amy Tarkanian, responded on Twitter, saying: "Thank you Mr. President for supporting my husband @DannyTarkanian & the Nevada Republican Party overall. He would've made an excellent Senator, but will also make a tremendous member of Congress...looking fwd to continuing the fight in helping implement America first policies!"

A message left with Tarkanian's campaign was not immediately returned.

Michael McDonald, the Nevada GOP chairman, told CNN that Tarkanian decided within the last week to run for the 3rd District House seat -- which is being vacated by Rep. Jacky Rosen, the Democratic Senate candidate -- rather than against Heller.

He said he's spoken with Tarkanian several times in recent days, ahead of Friday's 5 p.m. PT filing deadline.

The 3rd District is a historically competitive seat: Trump won the district by less than a percentage point in 2016, and Tarkanian -- the GOP nominee there that year -- lost to Rosen by a little more than one point. This year, though, Republicans had struggled to recruit a strong candidate for the open-seat race.

"Him doing that was just part of a team effort. We're going to have a great ticket now, going from Sen. Heller's race to Danny moving to CD-3. It's a great opportunity for all of us to move forward," McDonald said.

Trump has in recent months patched up what had been a rocky relationship with Heller, who had been critical of him during the 2016 campaign. Trump recently told Republican National Committee members that he intended to visit Nevada to campaign for Heller in his primary.

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