Adam Laxalt at a “Latinos con Laxalt” event in Las Vegas in May 2022. (Photo: Jeniffer Solis)
The mass shooting at a grocery store in a predominantly Black community in Buffalo earlier this month has drawn national attention to the mainstreaming of a racist conspiracy known as “the great replacement theory” by Republicans.
And the man most likely to appear at the top of Nevada’s GOP ticket this fall is clearly on board.
Former Attorney General Adam Laxalt — seen as the Republican frontrunner to challenge Democratic Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto this November — has embraced the dangerous rhetoric on the campaign trail, according to audio recordings obtained by the Current, all while simultaneously courting the Latino vote, which many political analysts believe will be crucial to securing the seat.
The great replacement theory (sometimes referred to as “white replacement theory”) is a racist and anti-semitic conspiracy that falsely claims a cabal is knowingly disempowing or replacing white people with people of color.
The 18-year-old white male who killed 10 Black people and injured three others at the Buffalo supermarket on May 15 posted a 180-page “manifesto” online that suggested a radicalized belief in the great replacement theory was the motivation behind his heinous attack. And he is not the first mass shooter tied to the theory, which was first circulated among white supremacist groups. Shooters behind the 2019 Walmart shooting in El Paso and the 2018 synagogue shooting in Pittsburgh also expressed racist beliefs associated with replacement theory.
Donald Trump’s characterization of immigrants as rapists and murders while on his 2016 presidential campaign is one high-profile example of the theory being peddled and accepted by Republicans on a wider scale. A Yahoo News-YouGov poll released earlier this week found that 61% of Trump voters agreed with the statement that “a group of people in this country are trying to replace native-born Americans with immigrants and people of color who share their political views.”
Sixty-nine percent of Trump voters said they are concerned U.S.-born citizens are losing economic, political and cultural influence in the country.
The dangerous rhetoric is alive and well in Nevada, in part because of Adam Laxalt.
In audio reviewed by the Current of a campaign meet-and-greet in Elko on Oct. 2, 2021, Laxalt can be heard suggesting immigrants are a part of a strategy by “the left” to destroy American values.
“It’s scary scary stuff — 200,000 people pouring over the border every single month,” he said. “Is the media covering this wall to wall? Of course not. Because this is what the left wants. The left wants to radically transform this nation and they want to destroy the values that made this country a great nation. Our constitutional system, our families, our church communities, the conservative fabric of this nation. They know they need to get rid of that so that they can transform our country.”
At a separate campaign event held on the same day in Winnemucca, Laxalt characterized Trump as “holding the line” against attacks from “the left” on “our constitutional system,” “the rule of law” and “the Judeo-Christian values. That made this one of the greatest nations on Earth.”
Elko and Winnemucca are both 86% white, according to 2022 Census data.
Months after making those comments at private campaign events, in March, a “Latinos for Laxalt” campaign would launch in Las Vegas with an event featuring a mariachi band, free tacos and a Trump advisor who last year characterized Afghan refugees as rapists and terrorists.
Latinos make up one-fifth of Nevada’s total eligible voters, and their turnout is seen as crucial, particularly for Cortez Masto, whose seat is seen as one of the most vulnerable in a U.S. Senate controlled by the narrowest margin possible.
The reality of those demographics seem to be at odds with an embracing of replacement theory, which routinely blames Latino immigrants for real and perceived problems in the United States.
Laxalt is facing a surprising challenge from veteran Sam Brown in the GOP primary next month, but he is largely still considered the frontrunner. And Democratic groups are already campaigning against him. Somos PAC, a Latino-led organization focused on mobilizing Latino voters, last week announced a $4 million campaign targeting Laxalt and canvassing for Cortez Masto.
Laxalt has not publicly commented on the May 15 Buffalo shooting or the racist motives of its perpetrator.
But, days after the shooting, Laxalt released a public statement accusing Cortez Masto of “ignoring the needs of our state’s Latino community.” He also touted his endorsement by the National Rifle Association and boasted that he is “the only candidate for Senate in Nevada who has an actual record of successfully fighting to defend our 2nd Amendment rights.”
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