Trump convinces Tarkanian to run for House, leaving primary open - FOX5 Vegas - KVVU

Trump convinces Tarkanian to run for House, leaving primary open for Heller

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Danny Tarkanian filed to run for Congress on March 16, 2018. (Tiana Bohner/FOX5) Danny Tarkanian filed to run for Congress on March 16, 2018. (Tiana Bohner/FOX5)
LAS VEGAS (FOX5) -

President Donald Trump is shaking up a key race in Nevada. The president tweeted on Friday, calling on businessman Danny Tarkanian to drop out of the primary race against Sen. Dean Heller.

Instead, President Trump asked Tarkanian to run for a House seat.

In the tweet, the president said it is best for Nevada and the GOP.

Danny Tarkanian filed his paperwork for Congress, Friday at noon. It’s a seat he was not planning to seek, 24 hours ago.

“I would be a much better senator for President Trump's ‘America first’ policy than Dean Heller has been,” Tarkanian said.

The businessman said he missed a call from the president last week, then woke up to the tweet, Friday morning. He said he made his decision at 10 a.m. after seeing the tweet.

“You have the president of the U.S. -- the leader of the party -- he's asking me to create party unity, so he can pass his ‘America first’ agenda, which I believe very strongly in,” Tarkanian said. “I believe we need to get this agenda passed for the future of the country and he feels this is the best way to do it. So I'm going to follow what the president suggested.”

Tarkanian said while he supports President Trump and a united GOP, he’s disappointed.

[RELATED: Republican Dean Heller files for re-election to US Senate]

“You know the disappointment I have, I was recruited to run in this race by many Trump supporters around the state,” he said. “So many people have come up and told me, ‘Thank goodness you're running. We need someone to take Heller out.’ I feel very bad for those people. I feel like I let them down. They no longer have someone to contend with Senator Heller. But I hope they understand this is something the president of the U.S. asked me to do.”

He does not believe this is the way to make the strongest candidate.

“Sometimes a divisive primary -- you get the candidates talking,” he said. “They sharpen their points, they understand things a little better. You get your finances and resources depleted -- that's always a problem. But you come in battle-tested. But that wasn't my decision. That was the president's.”

Now Tarkanian and his campaign are looking forward, switching their sights on a congressional seat. They plan to win this race with the support of the president.  

I was told it’s an endorsement,” Tarkanian said. “I would think when he says, ‘I hope Danny runs in the congressional race.’ That's an endorsement.”

Tarkanian added if Heller is the Republican nominee, he will support him.

Senator Heller’s campaign also responded to this switch with this statement: The Heller campaign is focused on Dean’s record of getting things done for Nevadans and defeating out-of-touch liberal Jacky Rosen in November.

“I appreciate President Trump’s support and kind words. We’ve accomplished a lot in the last year including cutting taxes for hardworking Nevadans and making sure that Nevada's 300,000 veterans can access the health care and benefits that they need and deserve,” Heller said in a statement.

Democratic congresswoman Jacky Rosen responded to the president’s tweet. In a statement, she said: "Dean Heller is a self-serving politician who showed his true colors during this primary by breaking his promises on health care, helping write this reckless tax bill and siding with the White House on immigration instead of fighting to protect Dreamers. If he thinks Nevada voters will forget as he tries to rewrite his failed record all over again, he's got another thing coming."

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