Plenty of Sparring Expected in GOP Senate Race
The primary election is less than five months away. That means we can expect plenty of campaigning before the polls open June 12.
The primary election is less than five months away. That means we can expect plenty of campaigning before the polls open June 12. So far, Danny Tarkanian is the only republican challenging incumbent Senator Dean Heller. Nevada's senior senator is vying for his second full term in office and says there are many differences between him and his challenger.
"As candidates, I win and he loses," Heller said. "I've won my last nine races and he's lost his last six."
"It's going to be really embarrassing for Dean Heller when I beat him," Tarkanian said.
Tarkanian is traveling throughout the state, meeting voters and fund-raising. He is running on President Trump's "America First" policies, saying he can take Nevada in a new direction if elected.
"I'm on the right side of virtually every major issue the republican party cares about. Dean Heller's on the opposite side. Dean Heller was a never Trumper and obstructed President Trump's policies until I got in the race."
Heller is in his 28th year holding public office. Governor Brian Sandoval appointed him to the U.S. Senate in 2011 after Senator John Ensign's resignation. He was re-elected in 2012 and says that has given him valuable experience and some clout in the Senate.
"I sit on the right committees, the finance committee, the banking committee, the commerce committee.," Heller said. "There isn't anything that affects your pocketbooks that does not go through one of my committees. If you're going to have influence and you want to do what's best for the state of Nevada, someone with my background and my ability to get things done is probably the big difference between myself and my opponent."
Both candidates say they support an infrastructure bill that could bring upgrades for things like transportation to Nevada. Trump is asking for $1.5 trillion to upgrade infrastructure in the U.S.
"Something absolutely has to be done and I understand it makes some republicans a little weary when you start thinking about how high our debt already is and that this would increase it some but in the long run, you improve our infrastructure, make it the best in the world again, and it's going to improve our economic output," Tarkanian said.
Heller's top infrastructure priority is completing Interstate 11 between Phoenix and Las Vegas, which he wants to extend through northern Nevada.
"We've got to get I-11 done, we've got to keep Yucca Mountain out of the state of Nevada," Heller said. "I know we differ on that issue. He is pro-Yucca Mountain and I'm not."
Tarkanian says he does support Yucca Mountain as a reprocessing facility for nuclear waste, but opposes storing it there.
To some extent, Heller and Tarkanian agree on immigration policy. Tarkanian says Trump's plan to create a pathway to citizenship for 1.8 million immigrants who were brought to the U.S. illegally as children, increases border security which possibly includes a wall, limits family-based migration and ends the diversity lottery program. Tarkanian also wants to hold businesses accountable if they employ undocumented immigrants.
"We need to mandate the e-verification which requires employees to verify that all employees they're hiring are here legally in our community," Tarkanian said.
"Let's find a pathway for these DACA individuals, but the second pillar is making sure we don't come back here in 10 years from now, having the same conversation and the third one is border security," Heller said.
Heller says he is looking forward to the campaign trail and he likes the enthusiasm leading up to the 2018 election, with people of all parties getting involved. He says there is a lot of time between now and the primary and general elections, but that it will pass quickly.
"The campaign, of course, picks up, gets hot and heavy," Heller said. "I love it that way. I mean, to have these campaigns to me is the ultimate sporting event. I call it my Super Bowl."
When it comes to the issues, Tarkanian says there is no bigger boost for an election than economic prosperity.
"We've got a great economy going," Tarkanian said. "As long as that keeps going well, people are going to the polls and vote to keep those 'America First' policies in place."
Candidates can file for office in March, and it is possible that more people could join the race. The nominee could face off with democrat Rep. Jacky Rosen unless other democratic candidates throw their hats in the ring.