Nevada Republicans prepare to choose a candidate to take on Jacky Rosen in critical Senate race

Retired Army Capt. Sam Brown hopes a late endorsement from former President Donald Trump will help carry him to victory in the state’s GOP Senate primary on Tuesday and give him the momentum he needs to win a general election race that Republicans see as one of their best chances to pick up a seat in the closely divided chamber.

The winner of Tuesday’s GOP Senate primary will square off with incumbent Democratic Sen. Jacky Rosen in a fierce swing-state Senate race.

Rosen, a first-term moderate defending her seat in a state that also could figure heavily in the presidential race, is one of Republicans’ top targets in 2024. Democrats are defending far more Senate seats than Republicans this year, including open swing-state seats in Michigan and Arizona and seats held by incumbent Democrats in the competitive states of Wisconsin and Pennsylvania as well as Nevada.

Republicans also hope to win seats currently held by Democrats in reliably red Montana, Ohio and West Virginia.

Brown, a Purple Heart recipient who was wounded while serving in Afghanistan, has long been considered the GOP front-runner in a crowded primary field since he announced he was running last summer, less than a year after he lost his bid to challenge Nevada’s other Democratic senator in the western battleground state.

He was heavily recruited by Republicans in Washington, D.C. and received the endorsement of the National Republican Senatorial Committee as soon as he announced his bid.

National Republicans have been deliberate in their attempt to avoid a repeat of their lackluster showing in the 2022 midterms, when Democrats exceeded expectations and held on to their tenuous Senate majority.

Before he can take on Rosen, who faces token Democratic primary opposition from two challengers, Brown must hold off a crowded field of primary opponents who have taken him to task for skipping debates and cast him as the hand-picked establishment candidate. The criticisms echo campaign themes offered up by Brown two years ago when he was seen as the insurgent candidate against former Nevada Attorney General Adam Laxalt. Laxalt won the GOP primary but lost to Democratic Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto.

This year’s field of a dozen GOP candidates includes Trump’s former ambassador to Iceland, dermatologist Jeff Gunter, who has portrayed himself as “110% pro-Trump” and has hammered away at Brown as the establishment pick.

Also in the race is Jim Marchant, who ran for secretary of state in 2022 on a platform of election denialism spurred by Trump’s false claims that the 2020 presidential race was stolen. Marchant raised his national profile in 2022 as the organizer of a coalition of 17 GOP candidates who falsely challenged the election result. All of Nevada’s elected officials since 2006, he has said, have been “installed by the deep state cabal.”

Brown, who was nearly killed by a roadside bomb in Afghanistan that scarred his face, made military service central to his message this campaign cycle, just as he did during his unsuccessful 2022 Senate campaign.

At campaign stops, he has often recounted the explosion and the dozens of surgeries that followed, touting the leadership skills he learned in the Army and the Christian faith that sustained him through his recovery.

Trump’s endorsement on Sunday further boosted a candidate who already enjoyed a substantial fundraising lead over his opponents. Trump repeatedly said he liked many of the candidates in the race and had teased the endorsement for weeks before he officially announced his support for Brown.

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