U.S. Sen. Harry Reid told reporters on a conference call this morning that a $17 million legal judgment against Congressional District 4 candidate Danny Tarkanian raises questions about his ability to serve in the House.
“It raises the question of whether he has the common sense necessary to serve in the House,” said Reid, a former congressman himself. “It raises questions of whether he can be an effective member of Congress.”
Tarkanian has been sued by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. after a California land deal collapsed and a La Jolla, Calif., bank failed. Reid criticized the land deal as a “scheme” that could cost the Tarkanian family everything it owns.
“I understand what’s going on here: This is a big stall,” Reid said. “He’s playing for time by playing the court system.”
If Tarkanian is elected, he’d likely have to file for bankruptcy, which Reid implied he’s been putting off to avoid negative press leading up to the Nov. 6 election. (Tarkanian acknowledged in a Las Vegas Sun story today that he may have to entertain a bankruptcy filing after the election.) But regardless of that filing, Tarkanian would still be in litigation with the government at the same time he’s serving in Congress. Not only that, Reid said, but it would mean Tarkanian is making decisions on federal financial issues while struggling with his own.
“Would it be kind of embarrassing to the state, to Congressional District 4, to have somebody back there” in that position? Reid asked.
The Tarkanian campaign replied that Reid’s conference call shows Democrats are worried that they may lose the new 4th District, which includes West Las Vegas, North Las Vegas and the rural center of the state.
“Today, Steven Horsford and his campaign showed a new sense of desperation and panic,” said Tarkanian. “It is disappointing and disturbing that Senator Reid believes he decides congressional elections, not the voters of Nevada’s 4th Congressional District. Apparently, Steven Horsford believes that having Senator Reid mislead the voters about the circumstances regarding my family’s personal affairs will cause Nevadans to look past his failed record as state Senate majority leader, numerous ethical failures, and lack of ideas to help get the people of Nevada back to work.”
Tarkanian also said his family is appealing the judgment, but Reid said such an appeal has little likelihood of success.
Although Democrats have a nearly 12-point voter registration advantage in the district, Horsford has performed poorly in public polls. But Reid ascribed that to Tarkanian’s name recognition.
“Horsford has had to make up a lot of ground,” Reid said. “People have to understand the seriousness of this judgment.”
Reid acknowledged that many Las Vegans have been hit hard by the recession and have had to file for bankruptcy, too. But he said Tarkanian’s case is different, not only because he’s a congressional candidate, but because the judgment came as the result of a complicated land deal, not losing a job.
“It’s a really poor lack of judgment,” Reid said.
UPDATE: The Washington Post‘s Dana Milbank suggests that Reid attacking Tarkanian is beneath the dignity of Reid’s office.