Incumbent Amodei, challenger Tarkanian agree to debate in GOP campaign for Nevada’s 2nd U.S. House District seat
By Ray Hagar, Nevada Newsmakers
Nevada’s 2nd U.S. House District Rep. Mark Amodei and Republican primary-election rival Danny Tarkanian have agreed to a debate, to be televised on Nevada Newsmakers.
The April 11th debate came after Amodei challenged Tarkanian to debate during an interview on Tuesday’s Nevada Newsmakers show. The debate will be broadcast on Newsmakers on April 12. It will air in Reno on the CW channel at noon and on MYLVTV in Las Vegas.
“All day, every day,” Amodei said when asked if he’d debate Tarkanian. “Happy to do it. Just do me one favor. Please try to pick a day where we are not scheduled to be in votes in Congress.”
Tarkanian, a Las Vegas native who is currently in his second year as a Douglas County commissioner, surprised some by jumping into the race on the final day of the filing period. Amodei, however, was not among them.
“They were tweeting for a month (that) I’m a bad guy, I don’t earn my paycheck, not a good-enough Republican,” Amodei told host Sam Shad. “You know it’s like the fire department’s coming even though your house isn’t on fire. So we were not surprised at all. We were kind of expecting it.”
Tarkanian moved his family to Douglas County — part of the 2nd U.S. House District — from Las Vegas a few years ago. He won a seat on the Douglas County Commission in 2020 by 17 votes when the Republican primary also served as a general-election.
The son of the late icon, UNLV basketball Coach Jerry Tarkanian, Danny Tarkanian has lost seven elections in his political career but has also won four GOP primaries. This will be his fourth attempt to secure a U.S. House seat — but the first in CD 2.
Amodei said he’s looking forward to matching up against Tarkanian on the debate stage.
“It is a priority,” Amodei said about the debate, calling it a “side-by-side comparison.”
“I am very comfortable standing in front of voters, saying why we did what we did and what our accomplishments are,” he said.
Amodei also pushed back on those Republicans who may say he wasn’t a strong-enough supporter of former President Donald Trump.
“So there are people who say, ‘Well, you really were not with the President (Trump).’
“And there are (polling companies) outfits who rate that and when Donald Trump was the president, my rating the first time was 98 percent (of votes aligning with Trump policies) and the second one was a 92. So that is a 95 average. And if that is not good enough for you — well, you’ve got me.”
Amodei also disagreed with the assessment he has not faced strong primary or general-election challenges as the 2nd District congressman.
“I would tune up your history a little bit,” he said. “Sharron Angle decided she wanted to run a while back. We’ve never had a freebie and never expect to have one. One of the things about this country is, listen, if anybody thinks they’ve got a better mousetrap, they’re free to run.”
Angle, the 2010 GOP U.S. Senate nominee who lost to Harry Reid in a memorable election, later became the president of the National Federation of Republican Assemblies. In 2018, she lost to Amodei in the GOP primary for the 2nd U.S. House nomination. She has not run since then.
“But I will also remind you, when we hear, ‘You’re a bad Republican,’ (and I say), ‘Oh really? Is that why the Democrats put a half-million dollars in the race two years ago with Patricia Akerman, funded by Code Blue or Act Blue and that sort of thing? So we have had to earn our pay every time.
“Nobody’s been more election-tested than me in the last 10 years, having run six times, not counting this,” Amodei said.
He said the primary challenge from Tarkanian shows that “Republicans have always loved intramurals.”
A Republican red wave could sweep the 2022 general election, Amodei said, although he fears the GOP may find a way to fumble away a golden opportunity.
The party’s vigor for primary-election challenges has the potential of weakening the GOP candidate who survives and continues to the general election, he said.
“Not that they ask me for advice, but if the Democrats keep doubling-down on this (President Biden’s) agenda, then it is like, the only way there isn’t a (red) wave is if we find a way to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory and that would be the intramural thing,” Amodei said.
Amodei side-stepped the question when asked what the role of Donald Trump would be in the 2022 election — although he said Trump is certainly the leader of the GOP.
“I’ll say this and it won’t come as a shock: Donald Trump is the leader of the Republican Party, until such time he decides he doesn’t want to be.
“And you say, ‘Well, how can you say this?’ Well, tell me who else is (the leader)? And that’s no disrespect to the vice president (Pence), or Ron DeSantis, or whoever. But it is like, quite frankly, where we’re at right now is that the President is the leader of the party.”
If Amodei wins re-election, he will tie Barbara Vucanovich for the largest number of victories in elections for Nevada’s 2nd U.S. House District — at seven. Vucanovich served as the 2nd U.S. House District representative from 1983 to 1997. The district was created after the 1980 U.S. Census with the first election for the seat coming in 1982.
Amodei has bragged in the past about his ability to win Washoe County — the biggest population center in the 2nd House District and one of three strategic areas of Nevada’s political map — along with Clark County and rural Nevada.
Yet a study of Amodei’s races shows that his hold on Washoe in the general election is weakening, even though Amodei has won Washoe County in all six of his congressional elections, starting with the special election in 2011.
In the last seven years, his victory margins have dwindled in Washoe — all against Democratic challengers who have mostly received little-to-no financial help from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.
Amodei’s victory margin in Washoe has gone from 28 percentage points in 2014, to more than eight points in 2016, to about 2.5 in 2018 and down to two in 2020. The 2020 election was also Amodei’s first where he did not get at least 50 percent of the Washoe vote, coming home with 49.77 percent that year.
Watch this episode of Nevada Newsmakers.