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Nevada Republicans try to out-Trump one another in primary elections Tuesday


Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo, left, motions beside former U.S. Senator Dean Heller laugh before a Republican primary debate for Nevada governor Wednesday, May 25, 2022, in Las Vegas.

John Locher / AP

RENO, Nevada – Two of the top races in Nevada’s Tuesday primary feature Trump-endorsed Republicans who hope to unseat Democratic incumbents.

Both U.S. Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto and Gov. Steve Sisolak are facing serious challenges to their reelection campaigns, as the party struggles with high inflation and President Joe Biden’s poor performance in recent polls.

A recent poll by researchers at the University of Nevada, Reno, put Cortez Masto ahead of her GOP rivals. But earlier surveys have shown narrower margins. Partisan control of the U.S. Senate may hinge on the race, too: Forecasters consider her one of the most vulnerable Democrats in the Senate.

U.S. Senate

Former state Attorney General Adam Laxalt, the frontrunner in the Republican Senate primary, has consistently led his challengers in the polls. He’s also got the most cash: Laxalt has raised $5.8 million, according to the Federal Election Commission. But Sam Brown, a veteran and business owner who was gravely wounded fighting in Afghanistan, has been narrowing the gap and raising more money from individual donors.

Both campaigns are pushing an “America First” agenda, by promising to wall off the U.S. border with Mexico and pass voter identification requirements. But Laxalt – who led efforts to block vote counting during the 2020 presidential election as co-chair of the Trump re-election campaign – has the endorsement of the former president.

Laxalt has continued to promote Trump’s election lies and appeared alongside far-right extremists associated with the Constitutional Sheriffs and Peace Officers Association, a group that’s allied with militias like the Oath Keepers.

Nevada governor

In the race for governor, Republicans are campaigning on the Democratic governor’s response to the pandemic over the last couple of years. Sisolak issued executive orders to temporarily close businesses, then imposed occupancy caps and mask mandates as infection rates improved.

Republicans have tried to capitalize on the anxiety many Nevadans felt during the lockdowns by blaming Sisolak for lost wages, while ignoring disproportionately high death rates in some rural, conservative counties that bucked public health guidance.

The governor faces a Democratic primary challenge from Tom Collins, a former commissioner in Clark County.

On the Republican side, Trump-endorsed Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo, who became nationally known after the mass shooting at an outdoor concert in Las Vegas in 2017, leads recent polling by 13 points. Lombardo has cast doubt on the 2020 election without explicitly calling it fraudulent. But Joey Gilbert, his closest rival, has fully embraced Trump’s lies.

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