Democratic Sen. Jacky Rosen will be one of the top GOP targets in the nation, but as the Las Vegas Review-Journal’s Jessica Hill finds in her survey of the potential field, it’s still far from clear which Nevada Republicans will step up to take her on in this swing state.
Former Attorney General Adam Laxalt, who narrowly lost the 2022 general election for the Silver State’s other Senate seat to Catherine Cortez Masto, said in a little-noticed December interview that he didn’t “see a scenario where I’m on the ballot in 2024.” Laxalt continues to be mentioned as a possible contender by media outlets, but there’s no indication he has reconsidered over the following months.
Another Republican who tried to take on Cortez Masto expressed interest in a campaign against Rosen to Hill. An adviser for Army veteran Sam Brown, who lost last year’s primary to Laxalt 56-34, says his client “has received a very enthusiastic response from both his statewide grassroots organization and the extensive national donor base that he built in 2022, but he hasn’t made a decision yet on a run.” Brown’s team previously didn’t rule anything out in November, but this is the first we’ve heard from them since then.
While Brown didn’t come close last time to denying the GOP nod to the well-established Laxalt, he ran an unexpectedly strong campaign. Brown, whose face was badly burned by an explosion in Afghanistan, raised a credible amount of money (his great uncle is Cincinnati Bengals’ owner Mike Brown). The Army veteran also tried to out Big Lie Laxalt by accusing him of waiting too long to file litigation trying to overturn Biden's win in 2020.
Still, all this was far from enough to keep Laxalt, who enjoyed backing from Donald Trump and the Club for Growth, from decisively prevailing in the nomination fight. Both the former attorney general and the Club highlighted how Brown had unsuccessfully competed in a 2014 primary for a state House seat in Texas: The Club even ran a TV ad playing audio of Brown saying, “It will literally take an act of God to get me out of Texas … I want Texas to continue to be the greatest place in this country … I'm not going anywhere.”
Another loser from the 2022 cycle who is talking about running against Rosen now is April Becker, who narrowly failed to oust Democratic Rep. Susie Lee in the 3rd District. Becker, writes Hill, has repeatedly gone after the senator on Twitter, while a speaker at this year’s National Cowboy Poetry Gathering even identified her as a candidate. (We don’t know if Becker herself delivered any cowboy poems, sadly.) That person appears to have gotten ahead of themselves as her spokesperson says she’s still, in Hill’s words, “keeping her options open.”
Becker previously ran for the legislature in 2020 and lost to state Senate Majority Leader Nicole Cannizzaro in a 631 squeaker. Rather than accept that loss, though, Becker went to court and unsuccessfully demanded a "revote," which predictably never happened. The Republican soon went up against Lee in the revamped 3rd District, a constituency in the southern Las Vegas suburbs that backed Biden 52-46, and she had no trouble advancing out of the primary.
The race attracted $18.2 million in outside spending from the four biggest House groups in the nation (the DCCC and House Majority PAC on the Democratic side and the NRCC and Congressional Leadership PAC for the GOP), which made it one of the most expensive contests for the lower chamber in the nation. Lee, for her part, went after Becker’s refusal to accept her last defeat with ads comparing her to the Jan. 6 rioters. Lee ended up holding on 52-48, and this time, Becker acknowledged her 10,000-vote defeat.
Two other Republicans also have not ruled out bids against Rosen: Rick Harrison, who is a cast member on the reality TV show Pawn Stars, and Joey Gilbert, who was the runner-up in the 2022 primary for governor. Harrison, who has long been a presence on the GOP campaign circuit, told the Review-Journal, “I’ve been approached by many in the party and always listen with an open mind.” He added, “Never say never, but at this time I haven’t decided whether or not to throw my hat in the ring.”
Gilbert’s spokesperson likewise told Hill that he was listening to people who want him to run but is “not at the place to talk about his own political aspirations.” Gilbert, a former professional boxer who bragged that he was "definitely on the Capitol steps" on Jan. 6, lost his last primary to the eventual winner, Joe Lombardo, 38-27. Gilbert’s side characteristically responded by saying he “100% believes he received the most votes,” and he went on to baselessly claim in court that an “illegal formula” was used to tally the results. But not only was Gilbert’s case dismissed, a judge also ordered him to pay sanctions for filing a frivolous suit.
Hill mentions two other Republicans, state Senate Minority Leader Heidi Gansert and former Lt. Gov. Brian Krolicki, as possibilities, though neither commented for the story. Finally, former Gov. Brian Sandoval said, “I’m committed to our students, faculty and staff, and to my role as the president of the University of Nevada, Reno.” Republicans tried hard to recruit him for a Senate bid in 2016 but he never seemed particularly interested in joining Congress, and there’s been no sign he’s had a change of heart over the ensuing years.