Election 2024

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2024 Senate race: Growing field of Republican challengers looks to unseat Jacky Rosen

Sean Golonka
Sean Golonka
Election 2024

Vying to challenge incumbent Sen. Jacky Rosen (D-NV) and disrupt Democrats’ recent strong run of electoral success in a historically purple state, eight candidates have entered the race for the GOP Senate nomination. They’re aiming to become the first Republican to win a U.S. Senate race in Nevada since former Sen. Dean Heller (R-NV) in 2012.

Just one of those challengers — Jim Marchant, a former Assemblyman who lost races in 2020 for Congress and in 2022 for secretary of state — has ever won an election in Nevada.

But months away from the June 2024 primary election, Sam Brown, a retired U.S. Army captain who suffered severe burns while deployed in Afghanistan, entered this year’s race with momentum from a second-place finish in last year’s Republican Senate primary and support from national Republicans. 

With no other statewide races on the ballot next year (sans ballot questions), the Senate race is likely to draw major spending. 

Nevada’s 2022 U.S. Senate race set records for campaign spending in the Silver State, as national Democratic groups and out-of-state donors helped boost Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV) as she won a narrow 8,000-vote victory (less than 1 percentage point) over Republican former Attorney General Adam Laxalt. 

That race saw more than $200 million in combined spending from candidates and outside groups, according to OpenSecrets, a nonprofit research group that tracks money in U.S. politics.

In a closely divided U.S. Senate, where Democrats (and Democrat-aligned independents) hold a slim 51-49 majority, defending Rosen’s seat will be a key priority to maintaining that advantage. 

Even as Republicans are seeking to flip a trio of Democrat-held seats in red states — West Virginia, Montana and Ohio — Nevada is still considered a key battleground and a target for Republicans. Last year, voters in the Silver State re-elected Cortez Masto while lifting Republican Joe Lombardo to the governor’s mansion.

Here's more on Rosen and her Republican challengers:

Jacky Rosen refresher

In 2016, Rosen was a political unknown. The longtime Henderson resident and former software programmer served at the time as president of Congregation Ner Tamid, Nevada’s largest Reform synagogue. 

Recruited by then-Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), Rosen ran and won a race that year for the swingy Congressional District 3 seat. Just six months into her term in the lower chamber, she announced a bid for Senate, again encouraged by Reid to make the run.

In 2018, Rosen achieved an unexpected 5-point win over the incumbent, Heller, and since then, she’s touted herself in the Senate as a bipartisan problem solver, unafraid to point to her ranking from the Lugar Center as one of the top 10 most bipartisan members of the Senate. Data from FiveThirtyEight shows Rosen was one of the least likely Democrats to vote in line with Biden’s position during the 2021-22 Congress, though she did so 92.5 percent of the time.

And despite Republicans’ propensity for attacking Nevada’s congressional Democrats for their ties to President Joe Biden — who remains unpopular in the state — Rosen isn’t shying away from the president. The Messenger’s Dan Merica explored Rosen’s embrace of recent Democratic legislative victories, from the Inflation Reduction Act to the Bipartisan Infrastructure Deal, in a story on her candidacy that included confirmation she would happily campaign with Biden on the trail.

She’s also proven her fundraising strength, ending June with a record $7.5 million in the bank. 

Sam Brown announces a Republican bid for Senate at Bragg Crane Service in Sparks on July 10, 2023. (David Calvert/The Nevada Independent)

Growing Republican field

Across the aisle, Brown and Marchant are leading the growing field of Republican challengers — most of whom are unlikely to be able to compete in fundraising with Brown, who has the backing of the National Republican Senatorial Committee.

An early poll commissioned by a pro-Brown super PAC found Brown, who moved to Nevada from Texas in 2018, in the lead in the primary field — though a larger share of voters were still undecided.

Most candidates in the race have similar positions on policy issues — from supporting Trump’s border wall to criticizing Democrats for excess government spending and inflation. Marchant, a prominent election denier and fervent Trump supporter, has framed the race as “MAGA vs. establishment,” a reference to the institutional support for Brown, who has declined to endorse Trump instead offering support for whichever candidate becomes the GOP nominee. 

My colleague Jacob Solis has a deeper dive into Marchant’s history and political positions from his run for secretary of state last year. To learn more about Brown, catch up on our interview with him from shortly after he announced his candidacy.

Also in the running is retired U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Tony Grady, who finished second in the GOP primary for lieutenant governor last year. Gabe Stern has more on Grady for AP News here

Jeff Gunter, a dermatologist and a former Trump-appointed U.S. ambassador to Iceland, also joined the fray earlier this month. He, like Marchant, has warmly embraced Trump, already donating thousands of dollars to the former president’s 2024 bid. For more, The Daily Beast and Politico have details on Gunter’s rocky tenure as a diplomat and history of Democratic voter registration in California

Others in the race include real estate agent Stephanie Phillips, attorney Ronda Kennedy and a pair of candidates who, like Brown, ran in the 2022 Senate race: retired U.S. Army Lt. Col. Bill Conrad, who received 1.5 percent of the vote in the GOP primary, and businessman Barry Lindemann, who, as a nonpartisan, received 0.8 percent of the vote in the general election.

Editor’s Note: This story appears in Indy Elections, The Nevada Independent’s newsletter dedicated to comprehensive coverage of the 2024 elections. Sign up for the newsletter here.


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