Sam Brown wins GOP Senate primary in Nevada, setting up a key race this fall

Updated
Bill Clark

Army veteran Sam Brown clinched the Republican nomination for the Senate in Nevada on Tuesday, NBC News projects, setting up a faceoff with Democratic Sen. Jacky Rosen in what’s expected to be one of the most competitive Senate races in the country this year.

Republicans have viewed Nevada, where former President Donald Trump has consistently outperformed President Joe Biden in polling, as a prime pickup opportunity in their quest to win control of the Senate.

“I like where we’re at — tied against Jacky Rosen in quite a few of the polls, or certainly within margin of error. This is a Senate race that’s shaping up to be probably one of the top-tier two or three battleground Senate races in the nation, from the looks of it,” Brown said in a brief interview. “That’s a competitive spot, and it puts Nevada very clearly in a formidable position, not only in the presidential race, but also in the Senate majority race.”

After Tuesday’s primary, Rosen called Brown a "MAGA extremist who will say anything to get elected," a message the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee echoed in a new digital ad.

For months, Brown, a retired Army captain who lost his 2022 primary bid for the Senate, held a comfortable lead among his fellow Republicans in fundraising and polling. Then, late Sunday, after Trump gave Brown a shoutout at a rally in Las Vegas, he perhaps helped seal the deal with a last-minute endorsement of Brown.

“Sam Brown is a FEARLESS AMERICAN PATRIOT, a Purple Heart Recipient, who has proven he has the ‘PURE GRIT’ and COURAGE to take on our Enemies, both Foreign and Domestic,” Trump wrote on his social media platform, Truth Social.

It was a snub to another contender, Jeff Gunter, who was Trump’s ambassador to Iceland. Gunter had cast Brown as beholden to national Republicans like Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky and accused of them of trying to dig up dirt on him.

Jim Marchant, who won the Republican primary for state secretary of state in 2022 before he lost in the general election, also ran in this year’s Senate race. Marchant, who ran two years ago on a platform of election denialism, previously told NBC News that he would not have certified the 2020 presidential election results had he been secretary of state at the time.

Brown was criticized at one point for not taking part in a primary debate. At the time, the campaign said that was a reflection of its comfortable position in the race.

Democrats had also viewed Brown as the GOP front-runner, frequently targeting him in their messaging, including on abortion.

Democrats cast Brown, who has described himself as personally “pro-life,” as a threat to reproductive rights. In an interview in February, Brown and his wife, Amy, shared her story of getting an abortion before they met. They said it underscored their feelings that the issue is complex and that politicians should lead with “compassion.” Sam Brown, who had previously said he was open to looking at the issue of a federal ban on abortion, told NBC News that he has since closed the door on that possibility and vowed not to support one if he were elected.

This spring, Rosen announced a $14 million ad reservation for the general election, to run July through November. She ran her first ads in April, painting herself as a moderate who worked toward bipartisanship in the Senate.

Brown said he welcomes Democrats’ spending against him, saying that ultimately he does not believe it will be a deciding factor. He pointed to the economy and the border as among the top issues for Nevadans. At the same time, Republicans have announced they intend to make a sizable investment in Nevada’s Senate race.

“Jacky Rosen could raise 100-plus million dollars, and I still have no fear, because I know at the end of the day, her money doesn’t offset our message of hope and hard work,” Brown said. “We’re not talking about partisan issues. We’re talking about concerns that almost everyone shares and policies that equally benefit everyone. So let her raise money.”

Democrats hold a 51-49 majority in the Senate. In addition to Nevada, the party is also trying to defend seats in red states like West Virginia, Montana and Ohio, as well as swing states like Arizona, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.

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