Danny Tarkanian, a Republican House candidate in Nevada, accused his Democratic opponent, Steven Horsford, of pretending to be black and taking the African-American community for granted. Horsford is the state’s first black Senate majority leader.
Tarkanian told the Las Vegas Review Journal last week that he could reach the black community in the district, touting his ties to local basketball programs. His father, Jerry Tarkanian, is a legendary former University of Nevada-Las Vegas basketball coach, and Tarkanian played for UNLV in the early 1980s.
“My dad’s worked in that community for a long time. And my mother has,” Tarkanian said. “My basketball academy, which is very close to the district, has a lot of players and families in that district that are in our academy now for 10 years.”
Nevada Democrats fired back, accusing Tarkanian of using “patronizing stereotypes” about the black community.
Tarkanian defended himself at a fundraiser, captured on a cell-phone camera and posted by a local CBS affiliate.
“They didn’t say what the racist comment was — I’m still trying to figure out what it was,” Tarkanian said. “Should we not work within the black community? … We could be like Steven Horsford, who’s not doing anything with that community — and you know, pretend we’re black and maybe try to get some votes if that’s where it is. It’s that extent that they’re going to.”
Tarkanian backpedaled in a later interview: “Obviously, I made an inarticulate statement that is being misconstrued right now. What I meant to say now is, it’s clear that Mr. Horsford has ignored the community in the time he’s been a state senator and he can’t expect to get votes from there.”
Tarkanian also said he left Horsford a phone message. Horsford replied to Tarkanian in a Facebook post in which he also addressed his opponent’s ongoing financial problems:
When the Tarkanian campaign went after me for commemorating the anniversary of the Voting Rights Act, and when Danny Tarkanian said he would win the African American community over because of his ties to basketball, I stayed focused on the economic issues that affect Nevada families. But I can’t let his latest divisive statement stand unanswered.
I know who I am. I will never be judged by the color of my skin, but by the results that I deliver for all people. Tarkanian has proven that he is bankrupt in more than one way, and it’s time he takes responsibility for not only his actions but also his words.
Horsford is favored to win the district, which gave President Obama 56 percent of the vote in 2008.