Trump Convinces GOP Businessman Not to Run Against Sen. Dean Heller

Republican drops Senate primary challenge to Heller after Trump's urging

Danny Tarkanian, who said he planned to challenge the Nevada senator in the Republican primary, told the USA TODAY Network Friday that President Trump last week requested he jump out of what was expected to be a hard-fought GOP primary race with Sen.

Heller is considered to be the most vulnerable Republican up for re-election in 2018. He was originally backed by former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon, who left the White House previous year to become involved in the midterm races.

Tarkanian had frequently criticized Heller for failing to strongly support the president's agenda. Trump publicly scolded him past year but in recent months, their relationship has warmed.

Though Tarkanian's exit from the race creates an easy path for Heller to win his party's nomination this summer past a handful of lesser-known candidates. Tarkanian has also run for Nevada Senate, Nevada secretary of state, U.S. Senate, the Nevada System of Higher Education and the House, twice.

His decision eliminates Heller's primary rival and may give the senator some more wiggle room as he looks to burnish his moderate bona fides ahead of what looks like a very tough reelection fight against Rep. Jacky Rosen (D-NV) that has been made harder by Heller's bear-hugging the president to block Tarkanian.

Tarkanian is the son of Jerry Tarkanian, the former UNLV basketball coach, and Lois Tarkanian, a Las Vegas city councilwoman.

It seems Trump and his team are so hyper-focused on Heller's race because Clinton won Nevada by just 2 points in 2016 and Democrats will be hell-bent on flipping that seat.

Republicans had feared Tarkanian could beat Heller in the primary, then lose to Rosen in the fall.

"This campaign has always been about running to repeal and replace Dean Heller, and we're going to flip this seat in November", she said in a statement. "I haven't even thought about it".

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