Adam Laxalt defeated a challenge from a political newcomer to win the Republican nomination for a key Nevada Senate seat on Tuesday, setting up a bruising November campaign to unseat incumbent Democrat Catherine Cortez Masto in a race that may tip the balance of power in the Senate.
Former Nevada Attorney General Adam Laxalt has the support of former President Donald Trump and the Republican establishment. But, with the help of the party’s grassroots, rival Sam Brown forced Laxalt to spend significantly and pull in Trump-world figures for late-stage support to win the primary.
At an election night reception in Reno, Nevada, Laxalt declared, “Together, we have made a critical step tonight.” “A critical step in reclaiming our country, a critical step in reclaiming our magnificent state of Nevada.”
With his nomination secured, Laxalt will campaign against Cortez Masto in the general election, which is expected to be one of the GOP’s best chances to flip a seat in the 50-50 Senate this fall.
Several states held elections on Tuesday, roughly halfway through a primary season that could transform American politics. The races provided an opportunity for Trump to recoup momentum following high-profile setbacks in his quest to control the Republican Party ahead of a second presidential candidacy last month. In Georgia, for example, Trump’s governor nominee was trounced by a 50-point margin.
In addition to Laxalt’s victory, Trump aided a state legislator in South Carolina in his bid to unseat Rep. Tom Rice, a five-term incumbent who voted for the former president’s second impeachment last year. In another South Carolina House contest, though, incumbent Republican Rep. Nancy Mace won her primary despite Trump hiring a challenger.
After the findings were out, Mace sought to adopt a conciliatory tone with reporters, promising to “work with anyone prepared to work with me, full stop.”
Trump, for one, issued a remark on Twitter, describing Arrington as a “long shot” who ran a “fantastic race.” He congratulated Mace, predicting that he would easily defeat a Democrat in the autumn election.
Even still, much of the attention on Tuesday was on Nevada, where the winner of the GOP Senate race would face Democrat Cortez Masto in what could be the GOP’s best chance to retake the Senate.
Laxalt is well-known in Nevada for serving as attorney general for four years and unsuccessfully running for governor in 2018. He’s also the grandson of Paul Laxalt, a former US senator.
He also has ties to Trump, which is likely most crucial in Republican circles. After the 2020 election, Laxalt worked on Trump’s reelection campaign and propagated his lies about election fraud in the state. Trump, in turn, invited Laxalt to his Mar-a-Lago club in Palm Beach, Florida, for a fundraiser and starred in a Laxalt campaign ad.
Brown, who was seriously burnt by an improvised explosive device in Afghanistan and exploited his personal experience in his outsider crusade, was backed by the party’s anti-establishment constituency.
Brown claimed in a recent campaign ad about how he nearly died in Afghanistan, “I wasn’t born into power.” “It turns out I’m hard to kill,” he says with a smile.
Brown received the endorsement of the Nevada Republican Party at a convention vote in late April and a straw poll of the Las Vegas-area GOP at a May event, much to the astonishment of many in the state. Recent polls showed him gaining in on Laxalt, even though the state, with its transient population and many late-shift employees due to its tourism and casino industries, is notoriously difficult to poll.
Both candidates were believed to have a comparable chance in November to unseat Cortez Masto, who easily gained her party’s endorsement over a slew of unknowns.
“I assume Laxalt would be a stronger general-election candidate than Brown, but I don’t think the difference is significant,” Kenneth Miller, an assistant professor of political science at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, said.
Cortez Masto, the first Latina elected to the Senate and the successor to the late Sen. Harry Reid, is one of the most vulnerable Democrats up for reelection this year.
This year, Democrats have several challenges, including an unpopular president and rising costs. Residents of Las Vegas’ expansive suburbs or those commuting from far-flung rural areas in Nevada are painfully aware of high gas prices.
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Those same issues could jeopardise Democratic Gov. Steve Sisolak’s reelection after he easily won his party’s nomination and waited for his Republican challenger to emerge from Tuesday’s primary.