Retired Army Capt. Sam Brown overcomes crowded GOP Senate primary field, setting up key Nevada race

Retired Army Capt. Sam Brown has overcome a crowded primary field in Nevada’s Republican U.S. Senate primary

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RENO, Nev. (AP) — Republican Sam Brown overcame a crowded field of primary opponents to win Nevada’s GOP U.S. Senate primary 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 speech to supporters at a Reno watch party, Brown thanked his wife, Amy, their three young children and his parents. He described an America “at a crossroads,” where he said his children “have no voice” and “have no vote” in the country that they will inherit.

“Your dad is going to do everything he can to make sure that the American Dream that so many of us had an opportunity to take advantage of is there for you,” he said.

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 — has been a cornerstone of his campaign.

Trump’s endorsement came as a hit 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, who overwhelmingly won her own primary against token opposition, criticized 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, when Democrats exceeded expectations and held their tenuous Senate majority.

In the victory speech, Brown attempted to link Rosen to the policies of President Joe Biden, a major theme of his 11-month campaign.

“Tonight, as we celebrate a victory, let’s talk about what happens because of tonight. Tomorrow begins the next stage of accountability. Accountability on Joe Biden and Jacky Rosen.”

He vowed to provide leadership to secure the borders, provide energy security, lower taxes and reform the judiciary.

Brown also recounted the explosion that nearly killed him in Afghanistan 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. Trump repeatedly said he liked many of the candidates in the race and had teased the endorsement for weeks before choosing Brown.

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, cast their ballots at Reno High School on Tuesday in support of Rosen and other Democrats.

The longtime Democrats said 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 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.”

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Associated Press writers Scott Sonner in Reno and Rio Yamat in Las Vegas contributed to this story.

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