Tarkanian to get day in court

Tarkanian to get day in court

Lawsuit claims election rival defamed him


Las Vegas Review-Journal (Las Vegas, NV)
July 27, 2009


The 2004 election still isn’t over for Danny Tarkanian. Today, he’s
scheduled to take it to court.

Tarkanian ran for state Senate five years ago, losing to incumbent
Sen. Mike Schneider in his heavily Democratic Las Vegas district. The
race got nasty, with mailers and radio ads impugning Tarkanian’s
record as a lawyer, his ties to shady telemarketing firms and his role
in a college basketball scandal.

After losing the election, Tarkanian, the son of legendary former UNLV
basketball coach Jerry Tarkanian and Las Vegas City Councilwoman Lois
Tarkanian, demanded that Schneider retract the various
allegations. Schneider refused.

So, in March 2005, Danny Tarkanian filed a lawsuit, claiming
defamation and libel and seeking more than $40,000 in damages. After
years of lawyerly back-and-forth, the suit is scheduled for a jury
trial before District Judge Valorie Vega beginning today.

Tarkanian didn’t return calls seeking comment on the lawsuit last

Schneider said all the claims he made in the campaign were true and he
can back them up. "We have everything documented. It’s almost silly,"
he said.

"When you’re in a campaign, your job is to create doubts about your
opponent. He tried to create doubts about me, too. He said a lot of
things about me that didn’t stick. We brought up his background, and
that created some doubts in voters’ minds."

Schneider noted that the legal bar for libel is high for a public
figure such as a political candidate — Tarkanian will have to show
not only that the allegations were false, but that they were made

And he disputed the lawsuit’s claim that the allegations caused
Tarkanian, a Republican, to lose the election. "That district has
always been Democratic," he said. "He wasn’t going to win that race to
begin with. I’ve been there 18 years now, and Ronald Reagan could not
get e state, winning the Republican primary but losing the election to
Democrat Ross Miller, who brought up many of the same accusations but
didn’t get sued, Schneider noted.

Elections can be bitter, but usually, after Election Day, everybody
moves on, he said.

"He’s still upset with me," Schneider said. "I guess he’s looking for
absolution, but he’s not going to get it from me."


Clark County Republicans and Democrats both chose new leadership last

The GOP on Tuesday selected a new chairman in Richard Scotti, a local
business attorney. He replaces county prosecutor Bernie Zadrowski, who
didn’t seek re-election after a two-year term.

Scotti defeated four other candidates who sought the post. In an
interview, he said he believes the time is ripe for a Republican
resurgence as a backlash develops to President Barack Obama and
Democratic control of Washington.

"We feel like we’re under attack from within, and most Americans agree
with us," he said. "Obama’s ratings have dropped. People are starting
to fight back."

Other party officers elected by the central committee included Vice
Chairman Bob Ruckman, Political Director David Isbell, Secretary
Heather Kydd, Treasurer Swadeep Nigam, Coalitions Director Frank
Ricotta and Precinct Administrator Duane Liibbe.

The county GOP has lately faced a dilemma over whether to take a hard
line on taxes, at possible peril of shrinking the already thin
Republican ranks, or embrace the moderates within the party, including
elected officials who supported the Legislature’s $1 billion in tax

Scotti said he stands for uniting the party and broadening its ranks,
which would include "not criticizing our elected officials publicly."
But he also said he supported the resolutions the Central Committee
approved last month that publicly condemned the tax-hiking legislators
by name.

"Even though I did support that agenda, I would like to be more
constructive moving forward and focus on winning seats and getting our
message out," he said.

Clark County Democrats whose Central Committee chose new officers on
Saturday, overwhelmingly selected Roberta Lange as their new
chairwoman. She replaces John Hunt, the outspoken attorney who did not
seek a second two-year term

Other party leaders elected by the nearly 280 committee members who
voted include First Vice Chairman Andrew Martin, Second Vice
Chairwoman Addie Crisp, Third Vice Chairman Sanje Sedera, Recording
Secretary Carol Burgeson and Corresponding Secretary Mike Selvage.

Lange, a consultant who ran New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson’s Nevada
caucus campaign, got nearly 90 percent of the vote after her principal
rival, Jack Mallory, withdrew from the race.

Lange said she hopes to run the party in an inclusive and transparent
manner as Democrats look to build on a successful 2008.

"We’re in a really good place," she said. "Now we have to take the
energy we have and move forward. We have to re-elect Harry Reid, Dina
Titus, Shelley Berkley and a new Democratic governor."


Term limits are turning the 2010 legislative elections into a game of
musical chairs.

The game began in earnest last week, with Assemblyman Mo Denis, D-Las
Vegas, announcing his candidacy for state Senate. The District 2
Senate seat is coming open as term limits force out Sen. Maggie
Carlton, D-Las Vegas.

Denis is the only currently serving legislator living in the district,
which mostly overlaps with his Assembly District 28. Both the state
Senate and Assembly districts are overwhelmingly Democratic urban
areas east of Interstate 15, centered around Owens Avenue.

"I grew up in this area," Denis, a computer technician, said in a news
release announcing his candidacy. "This is where I’ve served for years
in appointed and elected positions. This is where I volunteer in
schools, in scouting and in my church. This is an area I want to
represent as we face another round of great challenges."

Another member of the Assembly running for an open state Senate seat
is Kathy McClain, D-Las Vegas, who has her eye on the Senate District
7 seat being by Terry Care. It’s another east side Democratic

Carlton, for her part, plans to run for Assembly. She lives in
Assembly District 14, where Assemblywoman Ellen Koivisto, D-Las Vegas,
is barred from running for re-election.

A former casino waitress who now works for a health-care nonprofit,
Carlton said she doesn’t see the Legislature’s lower house as a step
down. "I’m running because there’s still some more things I want to
do" in the Legislature, she said. In her 12 years in the state Senate,
"I didn’t get everything done."

Stay tuned for more moves between houses of the Legislature and
possibly other elected offices, including county commission and city
council, between now and the March candidate filing period.


Some big names in Las Vegas political consulting, Sig Rogich and Jim
and Dani Denton, are teaming up in a new campaign firm, they announced
last week.

The firm, Election Morning, will specialize in campaign strategy, and
will also draw on the services of national pollster Glen Bolger and
Nevada numbers guru Jeremy Aguero.

"We wanted to develop a company that would provide a unique and
dynamic approach to the changing political environment of Nevada,"
Rogich said in a news release announcing the new venture.

Rogich and the Dentons have worked together in the past, such as on
Gov. Jim Gibbons’ 2006 election campaign, though they are not working
on Gibbons’ re-election race next year.

Now head of the Rogich Communications Group, Rogich was a top campaign
staffer for President George H.W. Bush, credited with creating the
famous television ad showing Democrat Michael Dukakis riding in a
tank. He also is a former U.S. ambassador to Iceland and founded the
local advertising and lobbying powerhouse R&R.

Jim and Dani Denton, who are married and live in Henderson, have been
behind numerous initiative and mail campaigns in Nevada.

"Successful campaigns require both the creative component to ensure
that the message is memorable and the analytical aspect to get that
message the right people cost-effectively," Dani Denton said in the
news release. "With this group, we combine talents and can offer
clients both areas of expertise."

Contact reporter Molly Ball at mball @reviewjournal.com or