Michelle L. Price and Ken Ritter, by the Associated Press
LAS VEGAS (AP) – Adam Luxult is one of Nevada’s most prominent Republicans, having already won statewide office, and has garnered support from both former President Donald Trump and Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell.
In the weeks leading up to Tuesday’s U.S. Senate primary, former Nevada Attorney General Sam Brown has faced a surprisingly exciting challenge. A retired Army captain and Purple Heart recipient, Brown has appeared in front of a crowd attracted to his profile as a political outsider. He reinforced his campaign with strong fundraising numbers, especially among the small-dollar donors who often represent the lower echelons of the party.
Despite the results, Brown’s slow-paced entry could signal a rift between the GOP base and interest in sending political newcomers to Washington, which Trump himself took to the White House six years ago. The final winner will face Democrat Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto, who may have the best chance of overturning the GOP’s Senate seat and regaining control of the chamber.
Despite the conspiracy around the race, many Republicans still see Luxalt winning the nomination because of Trump’s support.
“President Trump is by far the most popular Republican official in the United States,” said Corey Bliss, a Republican strategist who works on campaigns around the United States.
Republicans in Nevada are also running to challenge Democratic Gov. Steve Sisolak. Elsewhere, Republicans in South Carolina are weighing whether to support the two members of the US House of Representatives who have overtaken Trump. And two longtime rivals in Maine are poised to become one of the most competitive governorships in the United States this fall.
Still, Nevada’s Senate race is the highest-profile contest on Tuesday.
In the final days of reaching the primary, Luxalt held a telephone rally with Trump and campaigned in Nevada with his son Donald Trump Jr. and Richard Grenell, former acting director of national intelligence loyal to Trump.
Laxalt is best known for serving as Nevada’s attorney general for four years in the state and running a failed campaign for governor in 2018. He is also the grandson of former US Sen. Paul Luxalt.
And perhaps most importantly in GOP circles, he has a close relationship with two Florida men who are seen as the party’s most likely choice for the 2024 presidential candidate: Trump and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who was Luxelt’s roommate in the Navy and joined him in April. Rally in Las Vegas.
Laxalt worked on Trump’s re-election campaign and promoted his lies about electoral fraud in the state after the 2020 election, leading to legal challenges in the vote counting process. Both Trump and Descent appeared in recent campaign ads for Luxalt, describing him on camera as a person who can be trusted in the fight to “save” the country.
But the party’s anti-establishment base has pursued Brown, who was badly burned by improvised explosive devices in Afghanistan, and has highlighted his personal story in his external crusade.
“I was not born to power,” Brown announced in a recent campaign ad, explaining how he died in Afghanistan. Then he smiled and said, “It’s hard to kill me.”
Brown surprised many in the state, winning the support of the Nevada Republican Party in the convention vote in late April and winning the Las Vegas-area GOP’s Straw poll at the May meeting. Recent polls have shown him to be close to Luxalt, although the state, with its state-of-the-art tourism and casino industries, is considered fickle for voters, with a temporary population and very slow-shift workers.
Laxalt is still considered a favorite to win, although both candidates are expected to have an equal chance of defeating Cortez Masto in November, who is expected to win his party’s support over a much lesser known rival.
“I imagine Laxalt would be a stronger candidate in general than Brown, but I don’t think that’s a significant difference,” said Kenneth Miller, an assistant professor of political science at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.
That’s because Cortez Masto, the first Latina to be elected to the Senate and the successor to the late Sen. Harry Reid, is considered one of the weakest Democrats running for re-election this year.
Democrats are facing widespread headwinds this year, with unpopular presidents and rising costs. In Nevada, high gas prices are acutely felt by residents of the sprawling suburbs of Las Vegas or those from remote rural areas.
Those same factors could jeopardize Sisolak’s re-election, whose Republican rival will emerge from Tuesday’s primary.
In the race for Nevada governor, Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo is considered a favorite on crowded grounds and has received prestigious support from Trump.
The former president narrowly defeated another Republican candidate, former U.S. Sen. Dean Heller, in the race. Heller was once a critic of Trump and blocked the GOP health care plan, earning him public reprimand from the then president. But Heller eventually embraced Trump and linked his 2018 re-election campaign to the people. Heller lost, and Trump accused the senator that he once had a “real enemy.”
Lombardo, who was out of the US Capitol on January 6, 2021, has also been challenged by Northern Nevada lawyer and former professional boxer Joey Gilbert. Like Brown in the Senate race, Gilbert has garnered party support.
Trump’s false claims of fraud in the 2020 election are rife in some of Tuesday’s contests, including the generally narrow race for Nevada’s secretary of state. Republican Barbara Segavaske, who was denounced by the Nevada GOP for no fraud and for accurately defending the results, is period-limited. Republican-dominated areas that have embraced “electoral integrity” to varying degrees are being replaced.
In South Carolina, two Republicans in the US House of Representatives who have expressed dissatisfaction with Trump are facing challenges from the former president.
Former US lawmaker Katie Arrington has challenged Nancy Mess, a US envoy contesting the state’s first congressional district election. She criticized Trump’s role in the January 6 uprising and criticized Mess for “returning” Trump. Mess is still trying to show support for him and has even made a video in front of the Trump Tower in New York.
In South Carolina’s 7th Congressional District, Trump recruited a challenger for U.S. Republican Tom Rice, one of 10 House Republicans to support Trump’s second impeachment. Trump is backing Rice’s top rival, state representative Russell Fry.
Former U.S. Rep. Also in South Carolina. Five Democrats, including Cunningham, are vying for the governorship. The winner will play Republican Governor Henry McMaster, who is expected to easily defeat two GOP rivals.
In Maine, primaries will be just as easy for a Republican and a Democrat. But it marks the official start of a fierce general election race between Democratic incumbent Janet Mills and former two-time Republican Gov. Paul Lepez, who was nationally known for making obscene remarks and calling herself “Trump before Trump.”
Like Trump, LePage moved to Florida after leaving office, but returned in 2020 and decided to run for a third term.
North Dakota is also going to the polls on Tuesday, but Republican Sen. John Howen is expected to win his primary easily.
Price reported from New York.
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