WASHINGTON — Former Fresno State basketball coach Jerry Tarkanian's son Danny is scoring big in Fresno political circles as he tries to stuff Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.
A Republican attorney who has not previously held public office, Danny Tarkanian has raised more money in Fresno than all but one other city, records show. He is now seeking the GOP nomination to unseat Reid, Nevada's senior senator.
The younger Tarkanian's contributors include some of the Fresno area's most prominent business leaders, including developer Ed Kashian, businessman Robert Smittcamp and Granville Homes owner Darius Assemi.
"His dad was a coach here for many years; he has a great reputation, and a lot of people got to know him," Assemi said Wednesday when asked about his $2,400 contribution to Danny Tarkanian's campaign.
All told, Tarkanian reported raising $24,000 from Fresno-area residents this year, according to the most recent Federal Election Commission filings. Only Tarkanian's hometown of Las Vegas exceeded the Fresno contributions, data compiled by the nonpartisan CQ Moneyline reveals.
The Fresno contributions amounted to nearly 10 percent of the total $271,331 Tarkanian has reported raising for his 2010 bid.
Still others are lining up to dish out additional assists to Tarkanian next year.
"I don't think he's even scratched the surface of what he can do over here," Fresno insurance broker Michael Der Manouel Jr, president of the Lincoln Club, said Wednesday.
Der Manouel's father, Michael, contributed $1,000 to the Tarkanian campaign in late September. The younger Der Manouel said another "40 or 50" Fresno-area residents are on a list now being prepared for a follow-up Fresno fundraiser being discussed for early 2010.
Der Manouel explained that "a lot of business people" are unhappy with Reid's performance. Some contributors — Der Manouel cited his father as one example — also go back a long ways with Danny Tarkanian's father.
"What he has going for him is name recognition," said David Damore, associate professor of political science at the University of Nevada at Las Vegas. "Let's face it; if this guy's name was Danny Smith, he wouldn't be in this race."
A spokesperson for the Tarkanian campaign could not be reached to comment.
A 1955 graduate of Fresno State, Jerry Tarkanian posted a 990-228 career coaching record. As the men's basketball coach at his alma mater between 1995 and 2002, Tarkanian led the Bulldogs to a 153-80 record. His son worked for him as a Fresno State assistant coach.
Jerry Tarkanian's influence extended beyond the won-loss record, as he helped raise money for Fresno's Save Mart Center.
After Jerry Tarkanian retired, an NCAA investigation led to the team being placed on athletic probation for multiple violations that occurred during his tenure, including gifts being provided to his players.
Danny Tarkanian had excelled in basketball as a guard at another school where his father coached, the University of Nevada at Las Vegas. Even now, 17 years after Jerry Tarkanian left the Las Vegas coaching post, his son is invoking his legacy.
"After law school Danny returned to Las Vegas and ... subsequently practiced law for seven years," the Tarkanian campaign Web site states. "During this period his father led the UNLV Rebels to three Final Four appearances and the National Championship in 1990."
As of Sept. 30, Tarkanian reported having $204,000 in available campaign cash.
Reid had raised $12 million and retained more than $8 million in his campaign treasury as of Sept. 30, campaign reports show.
But with the Senate's top Democrat appearing politically vulnerable, Republicans insist the seat is within reach.
Reid trails Tarkanian by a 49-43 percent margin in a hypothetical matchup, according to a Dec. 9 Rasmussen Reports survey of 500 likely Nevada voters. Two other potential GOP candidates, Sharon Angle and former GOP state chair Sue Lowden, likewise outpaced Reid.
Tarkanian has run twice before for statewide office in Nevada. He currently runs a real estate business and is co-director of the Tarkanian Basketball Academy in Las Vegas.