Sam Brown on the campaign trail in 2022. (Photo by Josh Edelson/Getty Images)
As the field for Nevada’s GOP Senate primary grows, candidates are again being forced to reckon with Donald Trump as a campaign issue, with some candidates leaning into their support of the thrice indicted former president and others attempting to keep their distance without angering their party’s primary voters.
Across the aisle, Democratic groups are hoping to capitalize on the Republican infighting. But the vulnerable candidates — including incumbent Sen. Jacky Rosen — appear to be similarly concerned about potential fallout if they vocally criticize Trump and thus far are opting to stay silent on the former president’s third indictment.
The contrasts highlight the terse political minefield candidates on both sides of the aisle are walking in preparation for next year’s general election.
Republican Jim Marchant, a former state assemblyman and notable election denier who announced his bid for U.S. Senatein May, went on the offensive this week, calling out fellow candidate Sam Brown for declining during recent media interviews to endorse Trump in his 2024 presidential run.
Brown, a retired U.S. Army Captain, made an impressive showing but ultimately lost last year’s GOP Senate primary to the Trump-endorsed Adam Laxalt. Brown is now the preferred candidate of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, a designation both Democrats and Marchant have described as being “handpicked by Mitch McConnell.”
Marchant last month in a campaign press release described himself as a “Trump-supporting, MAGA movement Republican” twice endorsed by the former president. (Marchant lost both of those bids.)
Earlier this week, two others — retired U.S. Air Force Lieutenant Colonel Tony Grady and former Trump ambassador to Iceland Jeffrey Ross Gunter — officially threw their hats into the primary race.
Gunter, who The Nevada Independent reports has donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to GOP candidates and PACs in recent years, is doubling down on his support for Trump. He told the Nevada Globe he supports the former president “1,010%” and believes Trump is “one of the greatest presidents since Abraham Lincoln.”
Meanwhile, Grady, who placed second behind Stavros Anthony during the GOP primary for lieutenant governor last year, declined to endorse Trump or any candidate for president when asked after his official launch event Tuesday, according to reporters in attendance.
Four others have filed for the GOP primary — Barry Lindeman, William Conrad, Ronda Kennedy and Stephanie Phillips.
While not on the ballot next year, Republican Gov. Joe Lombardo last week similarly sidestepped making any commitment to Trump. When asked during a press gaggle after a rally for the state’s Opportunity Scholarship program whether he would support Trump in the presidential primary if it were held tomorrow, Lombardo responded by saying he was there to discuss school choice. The governor added he would support whoever the GOP presidential candidate is.
Lombardo as a gubernatorial candidate successfully towed the line when it came to Trump as a political issue — appearing with the president at a Minden rally and a campaign event in Las Vegas, but acknowledging in the race’s one debate that the 2020 election was not stolen. He also largely did not engage with his more conservative primary opponents.
Lombardo dealt Democrats their biggest loss in Nevada, unseating Democratic Gov. Steve Sisolak.
Democrats largely mum
Democratic incumbent Sen. Jacky Rosen has not publicly commented on the Trump indictment, though she has made more general comments about the GOP primary being filled with “different sides of the same MAGA coin.” The Current reached out to Rosen’s office for a comment on the indictment but did not receive a response.
Rosen is hardly alone in avoiding the topic.
Politico last week reported it asked seven incumbents expected to face competitive Senate challenges next year to comment on the new Trump charges. Rosen and Democratic colleagues Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin, Sherrod Brown of Ohio, Bob Casey of Pennsylvania, Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Jon Tester of Montana all ignored the outlet. The seventh incumbent, Kyrsten Sinema (I-Ariz.), responded only with a no comment.
Meanwhile, on the House side, Democratic Rep. Dina Titus was the only member of Nevada’s delegation to publicly acknowledge the indictment last week. She signed onto a letter led by Rep. Adam Schiff calling for the broadcasting of court proceedings in Trump’s federal criminal cases.
“If the public is to accept the outcome of the Trump indictments, it should be allowed to witness the proceedings,” she said in a social media post on Aug. 3, two days after the most recent indictment.
Titus has represented Nevada’s 1st Congressional District since 2013. It is largely considered to be a safe Democrat district, although its reliability was weakened in order to boost chances in two more competitive districts.
Reps. Susie Lee and Steven Horsford, whose districts are considered at risk, were not among the nearly 40 House Democrats who signed that letter.
Neither representative acknowledged the indictment on social media last week. The Current reached out to their offices on Tuesday for comment on the most recent Trump indictment but received no response.
The Congressional Black Caucus, which Horsford chairs, did issue a statement after Trump’s first indictment, in March. In that statement, the caucus acknowledged the possibility of additional indictments, stating that the initial one was “just the tip of the spear of legal worries for the former president.”
Lee won reelection in her 4th Congressional District by 4 percentage points last year, defeating Republican challenger April Becker. Drew Johnson, who failed in a bid for Clark County Commission last year, and Elizabeth Helgelien, a former state senator (known then as Elizabeth Halseth), have filed for next year’s Republican primary.
Horsford won reelection in his 3rd Congressional District against Republican challenger Sam Peters by 4.8 percentage points. Two Republicans — David Flippo and Alberto Orozco — have filed to challenge him.
Titus won reelection against Republican challenger Mark Robertson by 5.6 percentage points last year. Republican Flemming Larsen, who last year lost a state assembly race by less than 2 percentage points, and Republican Ronald Quince have filed for the district’s GOP primary.
Our stories may be republished online or in print under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. We ask that you edit only for style or to shorten, provide proper attribution and link to our web site. Please see our republishing guidelines for use of photos and graphics.