BY BEN KAMISAR – 11/14/17 08:46 PM EST
Nevada Senate GOP candidate Danny Tarkanian on Tuesday lamented the “character assassination campaign” against Alabama GOP Senate nominee Roy Moore, who faces a spate of allegations that he had inappropriate sexual contact with teenage girls several decades ago.
“I’m deeply troubled by the character assassination campaign now being directed at Judge Roy Moore in the Alabama U.S. Senate race … People have every reason to be skeptical about the timing and nature of these attacks, especially with reported media payoffs and partisan attack dogs involved,” Tarkanian said in a statement.
“Since the American principle of ‘innocent until proven guilty’ has not been repealed, and since such last-minute smears against conservative candidates have unfortunately become the ‘new normal’ in politics today, I see no reason to abandon Judge Moore at this time.”
Tarkanian went on to argue that if the allegations against Moore are proven true, “it would be appropriate to demand his resignation or take steps to remove him from office.”
“But to try and convict him in the media solely on the basis of unsubstantiated allegations is, at best, premature,” he added.
Washington Republicans have been scrambling to distance themselves from Moore since a The Washington Post article published last week in which a woman said Moore touched her sexually when she was 14 and he was 32. Those calls heightened this week when another woman came forward to accuse Moore of sexually assaulting her when she was 16.
Tarkanian is running a primary challenge against incumbent GOP Sen. Dean Heller (Nev.), who on Tuesday called on Moore to “do what is best for the conservatives of Alabama and step aside.”
Tarkanian accused conservatives like Heller of trying to keep a “true, unapologetic conservative” out of Congress.
“It’s not Sen. Heller’s opinion or Sen. McConnell’s opinion or Sen. Flake’s opinion or even my opinion that matters,” Tarkanian said, referencing Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Arizona Republican Sen. Jeff Flake.
“What matters is who the people of Alabama want to represent them in Washington, D.C. And that political jury will render its verdict on Dec. 12.”
Tarkanian and Moore are part of the group of insurgent Republicans mounting primary challenges against incumbent Republican senators. Moore received the backing of former White House chief strategist Stephen Bannon during his successful primary bid against Sen. Luther Strange (R-Ala.); Tarkanian is expected to receive Bannon’s endorsement, too.
Heller’s campaign responded to the statement by declaring that “Danny Tarkanian has lost it.”
In a statement, the campaign pointed to Tarkanian’s recent decisions to appear with brothel owner Dennis Hof, who is running to be a state lawmaker, and to sit for an interview with a controversial YouTube personality who has floated conspiracy theories about the recent Las Vegas shooting.
“This is the worst moment in Danny Tarkanian’s sad political career,” Heller spokesman Keith Schipper said in the statement.
“Danny Tarkanian’s lack of judgment by campaigning with pimps and conspiracy theorists is awful enough, but attacking victims of sexual abuse shows he lacks the character to represent conservatives, let alone all Nevadans, in the U.S. Senate.”
– This report was updated on Wednesday at 12:58 p.m. EST