Laxalt beats Brown in Senate primary; Nevada’s GOP House field takes shape

Former Attorney General Adam Laxalt will face Democratic Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto in the general election this November, as the vulnerable incumbent looks to defend her seat in one of the highest-profile Senate races in the country.

Nevada’s 2022 primary election, held Tuesday, also set the stage for a trio of nationally watched general election congressional matchups. 

Democratic District 1 Rep. Dina Titus easily knocked off progressive primary challenger Amy Vilela, and will face Republican former U.S. Army Colonel Mark Robertson in the general election. Attorney April Becker won the Republican nomination in District 3 and will take on Democratic Rep. Susie Lee. And Democratic Rep. Steven Horsford will defend his District 4 seat against either insurance agent Sam Peters or Mesquite Assemblywoman Annie Black, in a primary race that remained too close to call early Wednesday.

In District 2, Republican Rep. Mark Amodei emerged victorious in his re-election bid against perennial candidate Danny Tarkanian, who had most recently won a race that installed him as a Douglas County commissioner. Amodei, who was backed by a GOP super PAC, is practically a lock to win his general election contest in November in ruby red District 2.

Nevada will likely appear at the center stage of the midterm war between Republicans and Democrats this fall. The Senate race and all three Southern Nevada congressional races are rated “toss-up” by The Cook Political Report.

The Congressional Leadership Fund, a Republican super PAC affiliated with House Minority Leader Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), and the House Majority PAC, the largest super PAC aiding House Democrats, both appear on track to spend more money on television ads in the Las Vegas market than anywhere else this fall.

Laxalt wins GOP Senate primary, setting up match with Cortez Masto

Former Attorney General Adam Laxalt handily won the Republican primary in the race for Nevada’s U.S. Senate seat Tuesday, setting the stage for a long-expected race against incumbent Democrat Catherine Cortez Masto, who ran without a serious challenger in the Democratic primary. 

Laxalt easily outpaced his closest rival, veteran Sam Brown, leading by nearly 20 percentage points as of early Wednesday morning. None of the other six candidates in the race received more than 3 percent of the vote. 

Laxalt — a staunch conservative who first made a name for himself by sparring with the Obama administration during his days as attorney general — has long courted support as the Republican Party’s preferred candidate for the 2022 Senate race. Since announcing his campaign last summer, he has secured the endorsement of both the Trump-aligned conservative wing of the party and Trump himself.

After losing a 2018 bid for governor, Laxalt served as the Trump re-election campaign’s Nevada co-chair. Laxalt’s Trump-world support has translated into a significant financial backing in the crucial late stages of the primary, where he not only began significantly out-fundraising Brown, but also saw hundreds of thousands of dollars in outside money poured into TV advertising blitz in his favor. 

Those last-minute ads could have played a role in slowing late-race momentum from Brown, who saw a trend of improving poll results blunted in the final days before Election Day. 

"Together, we will restore American strength, confidence and the exceptionalism that we all still believe in together," Laxalt said during a victory speech Tuesday night in Reno. 

Brown, a retired Army captain who was severely wounded during a tour in the Middle East, mounted an increasingly competitive campaign in the final months, buoyed in large part by consecutive fundraising quarters of roughly $1 million in donations each. 

That money dwindled over the last three weeks, however, as Brown sought to boost his name recognition and his credentials as a political outsider. Though Brown mounted a failed bid for a state legislative seat in Texas in 2013, he had virtually no political profile in Nevada since moving to the state in 2018. 

In a statement, Brown congratulated Laxalt and pledged to support Republican campaigns in the November general election — though he did not explicitly outline support for Laxalt’s bid. 

“We raised millions of dollars without PAC money,” Brown’s statement said. “We won tens of thousands of votes without big name endorsements. We simply told the truth about changing Washington, and the movement grew and grew. But millions of dollars in D.C. Super PAC spending proved too difficult to overcome.”

Nevada’s Senate race will be among the most consequential in the country, as an expected tight race between Laxalt and Cortez Masto may decide control of a Senate balanced on a 50-50 partisan tightrope. 

In a statement Tuesday, Cortez Masto’s campaign attacked Laxalt as a “corrupt politician Nevadans don’t trust,” making reference to both his failed run for governor and criticizing roughly $2 million in outside money spent by PACs to boost his primary campaign. 

Titus landslides in initial primary results; Robertson pulls off surprise in Republican primary

Congressional District 1 incumbent Dina Titus, who has held the seat since 2013, is projected to win the Democratic nomination after roundly defeating her top contender, progressive candidate Amy Vilela.

In the weeks following redistricting, Titus expressed her disapproval of the newly shaped District 1 that added Republican residents and turned the safe-blue territory into competitive grounds. While she felt optimistic about the primary, she told reporters Tuesday evening at a volunteer phone bank that it will be hard work to win in a district that has recently been labeled as a “toss-up.”

In the general election, Titus will be facing Henderson resident and former U.S. Army Colonel Mark Robertson, who defeated several other Republican primary candidates including former Rep. Crescent Hardy and former Latinos for Trump leader Carolina Serrano, who out-raised her opponents and was endorsed by the Nevada GOP.  

Robertson told The Nevada Independent in an interview late Tuesday that he was grateful for the volunteers and voters who support him and is optimistic for November as people in the district “are ready for a change that improves their lives.” 

He added that it was nice to see the eight Republicans “compete without being divisive.” 

“Together we can take back our country,” he said. “I'm pleased to say that all candidates treated each other with dignity and respect … At the end of the day, we all love our country and want freedom and prosperity for the families in CD1.” 

Tarkanian loses primary for District 2

Incumbent Rep. Mark Amodei won the Republican primary for Congressional District 2 on his way to running for his sixth term, after surpassing Douglas County Commissioner Danny Tarkanian. 

As of early Wednesday, Amodei was leading Tarkanian by more than 20 percentage points.

Amodei’s campaign did not immediately return requests for comment on the outcome of the race.

Tarkanian, son of UNLV basketball legend Jerry Tarkanian, has lost several races the past two decades, including the 2018 general election for the 3rd Congressional District, in which Democrat Rep. Susie Lee took the win by 9 percentage points. 

Tarkanian largely centered his campaign on criticizing Amodei as not sufficiently conservative, especially on issues regarding immigration, abortion, health care and government spending. Although Tarkanian ran and lost for the District 2 nomination, he will continue to serve the remainder of his four-year term on the Douglas County Commission. 

In the Democratic primary, underdog Elizabeth Mercedes Krause, an educator and union advocate, will go against Amodei in the only solidly red district in the state. Krause showed a significant lead in initial primary results. 

Krause has not reported any fundraising with the Federal Election Commission. 

On her website, Krause notes her citizenship in the Oglala, Lakota Nation and prominently notes her platform that all projects and developments affecting Indigenous communities should first receive prior consent from those communities, not simply consultation.