RENO, Nev. (AP) - Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin is throwing her support behind Republican Danny Tarkanian's bid to knock off Nevada Sen. Dean Heller in a GOP primary in the western battleground state.
Tarkanian's campaign announced the endorsement Friday from the 2008 Republican vice presidential nominee.
Heller is considered one of the most vulnerable Republicans in the U.S. Senate partly because he's the only one up for re-election next year in a state that President Donald Trump lost to Democrat Hillary Clinton last November.
Palin said in a statement released by Tarkanian's Senate campaign that the Las Vegas businessman is a "conservative outsider" who will support "America First" policies. She says that includes building the wall Trump wants on the Mexican border, ending sanctuary cities and "repealing Obamacare."
Hurricane Harvey prompted Vice President Mike Pence and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz to cancel appearances Saturday at a Republican fundraiser in Nevada where one of the GOP's most vulnerable senators, Dean Heller, is embroiled in a bitter primary his challenger says is a test of their allegiance to President Trump.
Nevada Attorney General Adam Laxalt, who is hosting the 3rd annual Basque Fry on a ranch near Carson City, said he talked to Pence and Cruz on Friday about the catastrophic effects the hurricane could have on Texas.
"Together, the vice president and Sen. Cruz have decided it would be most appropriate to cancel their trip to Nevada and focus their time and attention on the people affected by this storm," Laxalt said.
The fundraiser will continue as scheduled with speeches by Rep. Mark Amodei, New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez and others. Heller and his GOP primary opponent, Las Vegas businessman Danny Tarkanian, plan to attend as well. Laxalt calls it the "can't miss event for Republicans and those who want to celebrate conservative principles."
This year's event will deal with some of the tension brought on by Trump's presidency - mainly the race between Heller and Tarkanian.
Heller refused to endorse Trump for president and has clashed with him publicly over health care. He already was expecting a tough race for re-election in 2018 and now must survive a primary sure to fuel GOP divisions.
Heller, the only incumbent GOP senator on the 2018 ballot in a state Clinton carried last fall, has aligned himself with Nevada's popular Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval in opposition to parts of Trump's health care policy.
Tarkanian, the son of former UNLV basketball coach Jerry Tarkanian, said in announcing his candidacy two weeks ago that he would join Cruz, Utah Sen. Mike Lee and Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul "fighting for real reforms against the liberals in our party."
(Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)