August 22nd, 2017

Beyond the Beltway
By Michael Green

There’s Gonna Be a Shootout

Not literally. That’s just the Old West saying, but now it looks like there will be a Republican primary between incumbent Senator Dean Heller and challenger Danny Tarkanian.

This would be the second time Tarkanian has run for the Senate. The first time, in 2010, he seemed likely to run behind the presumptive front-runner, Sue Lowden. Instead, both of them ran well behind Sharron Angle, the northerner who ran well to the right of them. This time, unless another person gets in, there’s no question Tarkanian is the more right-leaning candidate.

Serious primary challenges to incumbent senators have been rare. We’ve discussed them in the Inside the Beltway column. But the interesting thing is that any time there has been a tough, serious primary for the Senate, it has tended to involve Democrats. Granted, Republicans have held Senate seats from Nevada less often than Democrats have in the past century, and that’s a factor. But let’s just say this is historically unusual.

It presents a challenge for Heller in more ways than one. If he runs to the right to steal Tarkanian’s thunder, he risks losing some of the moderate support that attaches to Governor Brian Sandoval, who appointed Heller. If he doesn’t run to the right, it could be a problem because the base is where the turnout is in primaries like this one.