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Stories from the KUNR newsroom and regional partners related to the 2024 elections

Sam Brown overcomes crowded GOP Senate primary field, setting up key Nevada race

A man is talking while standing outside. A crowd of people with microphones, cameras and other equipment are standing in front of him. Several people are standing behind him with signs that read, “Sam Brown, U.S. Senate.”
AP Photo
Scott Sonner
Nevada Senate hopeful Sam Brown speaks to reporters outside Reno High School after casting his primary ballot, Tuesday, June 11, 2024, in Reno, Nev.

RENO, Nev. (AP) — Republican Sam Brown overcame a crowded field of primary opponents to win Nevada’s GOP U.S. Senate primary on Tuesday, setting up a fierce general election battle against incumbent Democratic Sen. Jacky Rosen that could decide which party controls the U.S. Senate.

In a short statement on X shortly after the race was called for him, Brown thanked voters and said, “Next stop: November 5th.”

Brown, a retired Army captain making his second try in two years for the U.S. Senate, emerged from a field of 12 Republicans to challenge Rosen, a first-term moderate in a presidential battleground state and one of the GOP’s top targets in 2024. Democrats are defending far more Senate seats than Republicans this year as they look to maintain their narrow Senate majority.

Brown held a decisive fundraising edge throughout the campaign and received a late endorsement from former President Donald Trump on Sunday. His compelling personal story — Brown was nearly killed by a roadside bomb in Afghanistan and spent months in recovery — is a cornerstone of his campaign.

Trump’s endorsement came as a blow to several opponents who had angled to align themselves with the former president, including Trump’s ambassador to Iceland, dermatologist Jeff Gunter.

When Brown launched his candidacy in Sparks, just outside of Reno, nearly a year ago, he recounted his military background and devotion to family and cast himself as an outsider fighting against “Rosen and her D.C. friends.”

Rosen blasted Brown in a statement Tuesday night as a “MAGA extremist who will say anything to get elected" as she warned of his “far-right agenda,” which she said includes banning abortion.

“I’ll stand up to anyone to get things done for our state,” Rosen said, “but Brown will always put partisan politics and corporate special interests ahead of doing what’s right for Nevada.”

Abortion is expected to be a central issue in the general election campaign. Rosen has repeatedly referenced Brown’s support for Texas’ 20-week abortion ban while running for a seat in the Texas Legislature in 2014.

Earlier this year, Brown sat with his wife, Amy, as she revealed in an interview with NBC News that she had undergone an abortion in Texas before they met. Brown, backing off from his previously unequivocal anti-abortion rhetoric, said he opposed a federal abortion ban and believed the question should be left to the states.

Several of Brown’s Republican opponents had tried to turn the tables on him, chastising him for skipping debates and calling him the hand-picked establishment candidate. Those criticisms echoed Brown’s own messaging from two years ago, when he ran in the Republican primary against Nevada Attorney General Adam Laxalt. Laxalt defeated Brown in the primary but then lost to Democratic U.S. Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto by 8,000 votes, clinching the Senate majority for Democrats.

Brown was recruited by national Republicans looking to avoid a repeat of their lackluster showing in the 2022 midterms. Party leaders 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.

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 Sunday — after nearly 100,000 Republicans had cast ballots during a two-week early-voting period — further boosted Brown, who far outpaced his opponents in fundraising. Trump repeatedly said he liked many of the candidates in the race and had teased the endorsement for weeks before choosing Brown.

In Nevada, voters braved blistering temperatures near or above 100 degrees Fahrenheit in Reno and Las Vegas as they cast ballots at school gymnasiums and other sites. In some spots, election workers set up fans to keep people cool.

Liz and Barry Barnes, 73 and 80, respectively, braved the 99-degree heat to cast their ballots at Reno High School on Tuesday in support of Rosen and other Democrats.

The longtime Democrats said that they liked Rosen’s opposition to the United States Postal Service’s plan to move key operations from Reno, among other issues. But they also had their sights set on the presidential election in November, when Nevada could play a decisive role in choosing between Biden and Trump.

“We’re scared of him winning,” Liz said of Trump. “We don’t want the country to go backwards.”

Also walking into the Reno High gymnasium was Dan Goldowski, 79, a retired pharmacist and Navy veteran who said he typically votes for Republicans or Libertarians and cast his vote for Brown.

He liked that Trump endorsed Brown, and “everything I read about (Brown’s opponents) was negative,” he said.

He’ll also be voting for Trump in November.

“His private life doesn’t matter to me,” he said. “Everybody makes some mistakes, and he probably did, too.”

Associated Press writer Scott Sonner in Reno contributed to this story.

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