U.S. Senate candidate Danny Tarkanian (R) blasted incumbent Sen. Dean Heller (R-Nev.) for “pandering” to “whatever group he’s talking to” at the moment, speaking during an interview Wednesday on “The Laura Ingraham Show.”
Tarkanian, a five-time candidate for higher office and the son of basketball coach Jerry Tarkanian, roasted Heller for changing his position on various hot-button topics, including the repeal and replace of Obamacare and amnesty for illegal immigrants.
“The thing with Dean Heller is that whatever group he’s talking to, he panders to them and he says he’s going to support those positions,” Tarkanian said. “But every time he gets back to running for re-election in a Republican primary, he starts talking conservative values again. But he’s on the record of flip-flopping every time he goes somewhere else.”
Heller is one of the Senate’s three most vulnerable Republicans up for re-election in 2018.
Tarkanian noted that Heller, who first ran for re-election in 2012, claimed that he supported strict immigration enforcement measures that would crack down on illegal border crossings. But Nevada’s Hispanic population makes up more than 20 percent of the state’s population, and Heller has repeatedly caved on immigration issues, he said.
“[Heller] was one of those warriors out there. And then as soon as he got in there, he joined the ‘Gang of Eight,’ who wanted to give citizenship to all illegal immigrants,” Tarkanian said.
And on Tuesday, Heller voiced his support for the so-called dreamers, recipients of the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act, who enrolled in the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. Trump announced his decision to end the program with a six-month delay Tuesday, allowing Congress time to act.
“While I remain concerned about the way in which DACA came to life, I’ve made clear that I support the program because hard-working individuals who came to this country through no fault of their own as children should not be immediately shown the door,” Heller told the Reno Gazette-Journal in a statement.
“Just as I have in the past, I’ll continue to work with my colleagues to reform our broken immigration system, and that must start with securing our borders; however, we cannot lose sight of the fact that our country has a long history of welcoming immigrants, and our communities in Nevada are stronger because of it,” the senator added.
In addition to Heller’s flip-flopping on immigration, Tarkanian accused the incumbent senator of reneging on his promises to vote in support of a clean repeal and replace of Obamacare.
“[Heller] said he was going to vote to repeal Obamacare when he was running for re-election, and then as soon as he had a chance to repeal it, he not only voted against the repeal of Obamacare, but he had a grandstanding press conference that drew attention to the Senate plan and really took any momentum the Senate had of getting that bill passed,” Tarkanian said.
Although Trump lost Nevada on Election Day by just over 2 percentage points, Tarkanian noted that Trump “outperformed what everybody thought he would do in Nevada, and he did that with every single elected official saying … they wouldn’t vote for him.”
Heller, Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval (R) and former Rep. Joe Heck (R-Nev.) — who ran for the Senate but lost in 2016 — all voiced their opposition against their party’s presidential nominee.
But Tarkanian argued that Trump resonated with Nevadans in a way that will endanger Heller’s 2018 re-election campaign.
“What [Trump] did was, he read the data to the hard-working middle-class Americans with his ‘American First’ policies about going back and giving back to the people of America who made us so great opportunities to achieve the American dream again. And that’s the thing that we need to talk about as Republicans,” he said. “And again, he loses by 2 percent with the top people in the [Nevada] GOP saying they won’t vote for him.”
“And I’ll tell you, the mainstream media there — it’s really a left-leaning media — they were demonizing anybody who supported Trump. They tried to pressure every person to repudiate him. And most of them did,” Tarkanian added. “That’s the leadership that we have in our state right now. But it’s not going to be there much longer.”