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'Big Oil,' high gas prices dominate first general election ads in Nevada Senate race

Jacob Solis
Jacob Solis
Election 2022

Less than 12 hours had elapsed between Republican Senate candidate Adam Laxalt’s primary victory on Tuesday night and the launch of the first salvo of negative ads Wednesday morning, as one of the most critical Senate contests in the country shifted its focus toward November. 

Democratic incumbent Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto launched a statewide television campaign targeting Laxalt as historically tied to “Big Oil,” criticizing his efforts as attorney general in 2016 to block an investigation into ExxonMobil and, later, accepting $2.5 million contributions to his 2018 gubernatorial bid by the billionaire Koch Brothers — long some of the most influential mega-donors in Republican politics. 

That ad preceded a Thursday press conference from the state AFL-CIO, which included union members toting signs that read: “Adam Laxalt - Big Oil first, Nevadans last.”

Laxalt has dismissed the criticism, tweeting Thursday that Cortez Masto had joined with “Big Labor” to “spread lies and push her phony message” — though it was unclear what part Laxalt considered false.  

In a statement attached to that tweet, Laxalt also said that the state’s gas prices have doubled under Cortez Masto (the current statewide average of $5.67, per numbers from AAA, is about 54 percent higher than the $3.66 average one year ago), and specifically cited her votes against oil leases as a key cause. 

Laxalt launched his own attack ad, hitting Cortez Masto on what have largely become the three pillars of his campaign: the economy, law and order, and immigration. 

All the while, outside spending has begun to accelerate. 

A Republican super PAC linked to the conservative Heritage Foundation, the Sentinel Action Fund, announced Thursday that it would spend at least $1 million on three candidates: Laxalt, Congressional District 3’s April Becker and Congressional District 4’s Sam Peters. Senate Majority PAC, which boosts Senate Democrats, is also announcing a six-figure ad reservation in Nevada’s Senate race on Friday.

Separately, Nevada Democratic Victory — a PAC linked to former state-party Democrats who fled after Democratic socialist candidates won internal party elections — have used the bruising rhetoric of the Republican primary against Laxalt. 

In an online video, Laxalt is described as “beholden to special interests,” “elitist” and “little lord Laxalt” in archival news footage by the nominee’s GOP primary opponent Sam Brown and two of his backers, strategists Chuck Muth and George Harris. 

Editor’s Note: This story appears in Indy 2022, The Nevada Independent’s newsletter dedicated to comprehensive coverage of the 2022 election. Sign up for the newsletter here.


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