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GOP's vulnerable Sen. Dean Heller gets a primary challenger

  • Danny Tarkanian plans to challenge GOP Sen. Dean Heller for his Nevada Senate seat next year.
  • Heller has faced criticism from the left and right over health-care policy.
  • Tarkanian has been a frequent candidate in Nevada.
U.S. Sen. Dean Heller (R-NV) (C) is surround by members of the media as he is on his way to view the details of a new health care bill July 13, 2017 at the Capitol in Washington, DC.
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U.S. Sen. Dean Heller (R-NV) (C) is surround by members of the media as he is on his way to view the details of a new health care bill July 13, 2017 at the Capitol in Washington, DC.

A frequent Nevada political candidate will challenge the state's vulnerable Republican Sen. Dean Heller in a primary election next year.

Danny Tarkanian, son of famed college basketball coach Jerry Tarkanian, announced the move on Tuesday. He pushed his candidacy on Fox News' "Fox and Friends," the morning show frequently watched and cited by President Donald Trump.

Tarkanian has positioned himself as a candidate ideologically to the right of Heller. In a statement on his campaign website, Tarkanian said he "supports the policies of President Trump to repeal Obamacare and end illegal immigration" and will work "for real reforms against the liberals in our party."

Heller opened himself to criticism from the left and right by vehemently opposing one GOP plan to replace the Affordable Care Act, then supporting a separate proposal to repeal parts of it. Tarkanian entering the race adds another hurdle for Heller next year in an election in which he already faces a credible Democratic challenger, Rep. Jacky Rosen of Nevada.

Tarkanian has twice run for U.S. House seats in Nevada, losing to Rosen by 1 percentage point last year. He also unsuccessfully ran for Nevada secretary of State and for a U.S. Senate seat.

In a statement, Heller campaign spokesman Tommy Ferraro called Tarkanian a "perennial candidate" who voters "rejected ... every time."

"If he ultimately files for U.S. Senate he will lose in the primary. Dean Heller is a proven leader and is the only candidate with a solid record voters can count on," he said.