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Laxalt wins Republican nomination for US Senate

Updated June 15, 2022 - 6:44 am

Former Attorney General Adam Laxalt won the Republican primary for U.S. Senate on Tuesday, defeating a tougher-than-expected opponent for the chance to challenge first-term incumbent Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto in November.

The Associated Press called the primary race for Laxalt shortly after 10 p.m.

Laxalt rival, U.S. Army veteran Sam Brown, in a statement released at midnight, conceded to Laxalt. “The stakes are high,” the statement reads. “We must take back the U.S. Senate, the House and the governorship. I will support Republican campaigns and work tirelessly to turn out every Republican in Nevada this November.”

Laxalt, the grandson of former Nevada governor and senator Paul Laxalt, and son of former New Mexico Sen. Pete Domenici, had 56.08 percent of the vote, while Brown had 34.09 percent, according to results posted after midnight Tuesday.

Laxalt, long considered by political observers the favorite to get the Republican nod and the chance to challenge Cortez Masto in the general election, has the backing of the Republican Party’s top brass, including former President Donald Trump and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis.

In his victory speech to supporters in Reno, Laxalt thanked Trump for his support, and turned his attention quickly to Cortez Masto.

Questioning elections

“Elections have consequences they say. Well, so do these liberal policies that are driving Nevada and our nation in the ditch,” Laxalt said.

Laxalt, who served as Trump’s Nevada campaign co-chair in 2020, has been one of the most vocal promoters of debunked claims of widespread voter fraud in Nevada after the 2020 election, which Democrats hope to make a campaign issue heading into November.

Serving as the Trump campaign’s co-chair in Nevada, Laxalt cast doubt on election security in the state and criticized Democrats for pushing through a new election law on a party-line vote amid the pandemic.

Laxalt has also said that he would look at pre-emptively filing lawsuits to challenge the state’s election systems ahead of the 2022 elections.

Cortez Masto was easily leading three Democratic primary challengers, none of whom reported raising or spending any money during the campaign. The incumbent senator had 90 percent of the vote.

Cortez Masto’s campaign, in a statement Tuesday night, said that Laxalt was “a corrupt attorney general and he has become even worse since his failed campaign for governor.”

“Adam Laxalt is only out for himself, not Nevada, which is why he was overwhelmingly rejected in his last campaign,” Cortez Masto campaign spokesman Josh Marcus-Blank said in a statement.

Strong challenger

Brown, a political newcomer to Nevada, gave Laxalt a stronger challenge than most anticipated at the onset of the campaigns.

Brown posted strong fundraising numbers throughout the campaign, raising more than $1 million in three consecutive quarters and nearly $4 million overall. And up until the final few weeks, Brown had actually outspent Laxalt, according to campaign finance records filed with the Federal Election Commission.

One of Brown’s major supporters, Las Vegas businessman Don Ahern, had pushed to get Trump to switch his endorsement away from Laxalt to no avail. And when it came time for the state Republican Party’s central committee to vote on which candidates to endorse the party’s April convention, it was Brown who got the nod.

Underscoring how the primary race seemed to tighten, Laxalt upped his spending in the final months of the primary, spending nearly $1.7 million from April 1 to May 25 and launched TV ads in the final weeks that featured Trump and DeSantis talking directly to the camera.

The most recent poll from the Nevada Independent/OH Predictive Insights, released last week, showed Laxalt leading Brown by 14 percentage points, 48 to 34. That’s a marked improvement for Brown from a pair of polls from The Trafalgar Group and Emerson College in late April and early May that showed Laxalt leading by 24 and 24 percentage points, but it’s still a large gap for Brown to make up.

Contact Colton Lochhead at clochhead@reviewjournal.com. Follow @ColtonLochhead on Twitter.

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