ICYMI: Nevada Senate Shaping Up to be a “Slugfest” As D.C. Republicans Fail to “Clear the Field”

Despite a “strong effort” from Mitch McConnell and D.C. Republicans to clear the Senate field in Nevada, the GOP primary is shaping up to be a “slugfest” and “one of the more fractious” primary battles in the nation.

A new piece from Inside Elections reveals that Republicans “remain skeptical of Brown, who is politically untested and has only recently put down roots in the state.” That skepticism resulted in two more candidates jumping in the race after Brown’s launch – despite efforts by the NRSC to block them. 

Said one GOP strategist: “I think they were kidding themselves a little bit when they thought they could clear the field.” 

Now, Republicans are facing “the most crowded GOP primary of any 2024 Senate race” – pushing every candidate further to the right and even more out of step with everyday Nevadans. 

Inside Elections: Nevada Senate: Silver State Slugfest
By Erin Covey

Key points:

  • Rosen has a few clear advantages going into 2024. Nevada Democrats tend to perform better in presidential cycles than in midterms, and the party’s organizing operation powered by the “Reid Machine” (so named for the late Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid) remains strong. There’s also a chance that Republicans will have a contentious primary on their hands that hampers the eventual nominee. 
  • Republican leaders in D.C. have made a concerted effort to prevent messy primary races across Senate races. So far, those efforts have been met with mixed success — and the Silver State’s GOP primary is getting crowded. 
  • Former state Assemblyman Jim Marchant, the GOP nominee for secretary of state in 2022 who is known for spreading 2020 election conspiracy theories, was the first to launch a campaign in May. Two months later, 2022 underdog candidate Sam Brown launched his campaign with the support of the Republican establishment.
  • But in the weeks following Brown’s campaign, two other Republicans — 2022 lieutenant governor candidate Tony Grady and former U.S. Ambassador to Iceland Jeffrey Gunter — have launched campaigns, signs that some Nevada Republicans aren’t content with D.C.’s pick. As the primary heats up, this race could feature one of the more fractious Senate GOP primary battles in 2024.
  • Republicans’ bench in Nevada is slim: Rep. Mark Amodei is the state’s lone GOP member of Congress, and Lombardo, Lt. Gov. Stavros Anthony, and Controller Andy Matthews are just months into their first terms. 
  • Republicans have attempted to recruit former Gov. Brian Sandoval to run for Senate for multiple cycles, but the moderate former governor appears to have no interest in going to Washington.
  • Despite its small pool of credible candidates, Nevada currently features the most crowded GOP primary of any 2024 Senate race. Eight Republicans have filed to run against Rosen, though only four have put together credible campaigns.
  • Along with having the support of the NRSC, Brown has also picked up endorsements from Sens. John Barrasso, Marsha Blackburn, and Tom Cotton, and the Koch-affiliated Americans for Prosperity PAC.
  • The NRSC has been in the process of recruiting him since the beginning of the cycle. But some Republicans remain skeptical of Brown, who is politically untested and has only recently put down roots in the state. 
  • He ran unsuccessfully for a state House seat in 2014, telling Glenn Beck during his campaign that “it will literally take an act of God to get me out of Texas.” (That interview was then featured in a Club for Growth ad attacking Brown in 2022). Brown came in third place in the GOP primary for the 2014 race.
  • Though Laxalt organized multiple legal challenges to Nevada’s 2020 election results as a co-chair of the Trump campaign, Brown criticized him for not pushing hard enough on “election integrity” issues. Laxalt ultimately defeated Brown by 21 points. 
  • After his unsuccessful Senate campaign, Brown became the chair of the Nevada Faith & Freedom Coalition (affiliated with conservative evangelical political strategist Ralph Reed). He also started a PAC to support Republican candidates — though according to a CNN report, the vast majority of the funds raised by this PAC were used to pay off campaign debt from 2022.
  • The NRSC made a strong effort to discourage other Republican candidates from jumping in the primary, according to multiple Republicans who spoke with Inside Elections. “I think they were kidding themselves a little bit when they thought they could clear the field,” one Republican strategist told Inside Elections.
  • Despite the committee’s efforts, two candidates announced campaigns in the weeks following Brown’s July launch. 
  • Gunter is a wealthy dermatologist who owns practices in California, Nevada, Texas, and Arizona. Though this is his first political campaign, he’s been a longtime Republican donor and donated thousands of dollars to Trump’s presidential campaigns. Gunter was appointed by Trump to be U.S. Ambassador to Iceland in 2019, and he calls himself an “America First diplomat” on his campaign’s website. 
  • But Gunter, who has donated to Republican campaigns since 2003 according to FEC reports, could have the ability to compete with Brown financially. He’s also picked up an endorsement from Lee Zeldin, the Republican nominee for New York governor in 2022. 
  • Grady, an Air Force veteran and former FedEx pilot, was the second Republican candidate to announce a campaign in August. Last cycle, Grady came in second place in the GOP primary for lieutenant governor with 25 percent of the vote, carrying 13 rural counties. He also backed Brown’s Senate campaign in 2022.
  • Unlike his Republican opponents, Marchant has held elected office (he served in the general assembly for one term from 2016 to 2018) and has won a statewide primary.
  • Gunter and Marchant are both running in the unabashedly pro-Trump lane of the GOP, and Brown has already faced attacks from both candidates for his establishment ties. Brown has said that he won’t endorse a candidate in the GOP presidential primary, and Grady has also indicated that he won’t take sides.
  • As the presidential GOP primary escalates, Republican Senate candidates will be forced to reckon with Trump, who’s more popular with Nevada Republicans than he is with Iowa and New Hampshire Republicans. That could be a challenge for candidates like Brown and Grady. The Senate primary won’t be until June 11, at which point the Republican presidential nominee will probably be clear.  
  • And if the former president decides to get involved in the race, that could significantly change the primary dynamics. 
  • Over the past five years, Rosen has kept a low-profile in the Senate, establishing a reputation as a moderate Democrat who says she “prefer[s] to work behind the scenes.” 
  • As chair of the Senate Commerce Committee’s tourism subcommittee since 2021, she’s worked on legislation to revitalize Nevada’s tourism-dependent economy, which was devastated by the COVID-19 pandemic. She also sits on the committees for Armed Services, Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, and Small Business and Entrepreneurship. 
  • The senator’s early fundraising numbers have been strong. She raised $2.7 million in the second quarter and had $7.5 million in her campaign account.
  • Democrats will continue to make abortion the focal point of their attacks on Republican candidates in the state. Compared to other purple states, Nevada has long been more pro-choice — in 1990, two-thirds of Nevada voters supported a ballot amendment codifying  abortion rights for the first 24 weeks of pregnancy.
  • “A lot of conservative women are O.K. with abortion, especially early on,” one Republican operative who has worked on campaigns in the state told Inside Elections.
  • While the four Republican candidates all identify as pro-life, they’ve avoided taking concrete positions on the issue so far. In 2022, Brown had said he would consider supporting a national ban on abortion, but after he announced his 2024 campaign, he declined to say if he’d support a national ban. 


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