Republican Senate candidate Sam Brown, a retired U.S. Army captain who suffered severe burns in an explosion in Afghanistan, said in an interview Tuesday in Las Vegas that he is running for office again because he believes issues that previously motivated him to run, including high inflation, are worse than they were two years ago.
“We need someone who understands our issues, who knows what it means to work, to have to live [on] a budget. That’s what I bring,” he said.
At a Monday rally inside a Sparks warehouse, Brown announced his bid to challenge Sen. Jacky Rosen (D-NV) in 2024. Though he ran as an outsider two years ago, he’s entering this battleground race that could swing the balance of power in a narrowly divided U.S. Senate with the support of some institutional Republicans, including National Republican Senatorial Committee Chair Sen. Steve Daines (R-MT).
Despite support from national Republicans and two previous unsuccessful runs for office, Brown sought Tuesday to shed the label of politician.
“I’m not really a politician. If I was to label myself, I would say, I’m a Christian. I’m a husband. I’m a father. I’m a veteran. I’m someone who has worked a blue-collar job. I’m someone who has built a business, and I’m someone who is here to help,” he said. “I’m here to take those experiences and to lead on behalf of Nevadans.”
He also re-emphasized similar positions to his 2022 run, tying excessive government spending to inflation, arguing for smaller government through less taxes and fewer regulations and affirming that he is “pro life” — though he declined to say whether he would support or oppose a national abortion ban.
Despite sizable grassroots fundraising and an active campaign, he lost in the Republican primary last year to former Attorney General Adam Laxalt by nearly 22 points, a margin of 56 percent to 34 percent. Laxalt was narrowly defeated by incumbent Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV).
But even with greater institutional support than in his previous run, Brown faces an uphill battle in the 2024 Senate race. He’s challenging Rosen, who assumed office in 2019 after winning her race by 5 points in a “blue wave” year and who has $7.5 million in campaign cash on hand as of the end of June — a state record at this point in a Senate campaign.
Before that, he faces a Republican primary battle against Jim Marchant, a well-known figure among Nevada Republicans and a prominent election denier who previously served as a one-term assemblyman, as well against Las Vegas-based attorney Ronda Kennedy and real estate agent Stephanie Phillips. Jeffrey Ross Gunter, a former U.S. ambassador to Iceland appointed by former President Donald Trump, is also mulling a Senate run.
Brown did not comment on those candidates, including Marchant, saying he was “very focused on a campaign against” Rosen and that he considers anyone else entering the race as “an indictment against” the incumbent Democrat.
Brown, prior to moving to Nevada in 2018, previously mounted an unsuccessful run for a seat in the Texas Legislature in 2014. A veteran who suffered severe burns in an explosion during battle in Afghanistan, Brown has also run a small business providing “emergency pharmaceutical support” to veterans, according to his campaign website.
In a roughly 10-minute interview, Brown spoke with The Nevada Independent Tuesday to discuss his campaign and where he stands on several issues. Additional information has been included based on Brown’s positions during his Senate campaign last year — as of Tuesday, his 2024 campaign website did not include information about his stances on campaign issues.
The economy and spending
Brown reiterated a key issue from his 2022 campaign, saying he was concerned about Nevadans “suffering under inflation” through higher costs for gas, electricity and groceries that “impact people at the kitchen table.”
He tied continued inflation to excessive government spending, saying there should be more accountability for spending decisions in Washington, D.C. and that the federal government should act like households that have to balance their budget. He also generally called for less taxes and fewer regulations.
“I would love to see a cut across the board, and our departments and agencies find ways to do the same or do more with less. I think it’s possible,” Brown said. “Constantly, people are having to figure out how to do the same or more with less, and D.C. should be held to that same standard.”
When asked during a debate in last year’s Senate race how he would reduce government spending, Brown proposed eliminating federal agencies that also exist on the state level, suggesting the country could live without departments of energy, transportation and education.
Brown said during his 2022 campaign that he was “pro life,” though he generally said little publicly on the issue of abortion last year. On his 2022 campaign website, he said he would “oppose any federal funding of abortion and only support U.S. Supreme Court Justices who understand the importance of protecting life.”
On Tuesday, he said again that he was “pro life,” but he declined to say whether he would support or oppose a national abortion ban, adding that he was “not going to deliberate on hypothetical legislation.”
He noted that he supported exceptions in cases of rape, incest and a threat to the life of a mother, but said broadly his goal was to reduce the number of abortions, including through ensuring easier paths to adoption and providing better prenatal and postnatal care.
When asked if he’d support an effort to change Nevada’s abortion law — which protects access up to 24 weeks of pregnancy and can only be overturned by a majority of voters — Brown said, “That’s a hypothetical situation that we’re not dealing with today.”
“The fact of the matter is I don’t see Nevada’s laws changing,” Brown said.
Polls consistently show that a majority of Nevadans support protecting abortion access.
Brown, meanwhile, criticized Rosen’s position on abortion as extreme, including taking issue with her support for the Women’s Health Protection Act — legislation aimed at enshrining into law the struck-down protections from Roe v. Wade.
Asked if he believed the state’s elections are secure, Brown said he feels “pretty confident in our elections,” but said there is an issue with too many Nevadans not having faith in the process.
He did not specify steps to improving that faith, but on his 2022 campaign website, said he would prioritize “passing election integrity legislation … including the requirement that every voter must produce identification to vote.” A February poll from The Nevada Independent and Noble Predictive Insights found that a large majority of Nevada voters support requiring identification to vote.
In 2021, Brown said in an interview with KRNV in Reno that “Joe Biden is our president. That is a political process and he was confirmed by the Electoral College.”
During the primary debate against Laxalt in May 2022, Brown — who backed Trump and volunteered for his 2020 campaign — sharply criticized Laxalt for doing too little to bolster the Trump campaign’s legal challenge to the 2020 presidential election results in Nevada. That included saying at the time that “the only thing [Laxalt] did was to file a lawsuit that, by [his] own admission, was late.”
Laxalt, who received backing from national Republicans and Trump in the 2022 Senate race, served as the Trump campaign’s Nevada co-chair in 2020. While the Trump campaign and Trump himself repeatedly reiterated false claims that the 2020 election was fraudulent and stolen, Nevada election officials have found no evidence of widespread fraud affecting the outcome of the election.
Despite Brown’s efforts to press Laxalt on challenging the 2020 election, he has often avoided sharing his own thoughts about the election. He said Tuesday that “we don’t need to relitigate something from three years ago.”
Though he has expressed support for Trump over the years, including volunteering for the Trump campaign in 2020, Brown on Monday declined to endorse Trump’s 2024 campaign in an increasingly crowded field of Republican presidential contenders — already marking a difference with Marchant, who recently endorsed Trump for president.
Brown told reporters at his campaign launch event that he was focused on his own race and that Republicans need to put forward a candidate capable of defeating President Joe Biden.
Brown believes the “Constitution unequivocally guarantees our right to bear arms” under the Second Amendment, according to his 2022 campaign website.
He has taken a firm stance against “red flag” laws, which allow a court to order the temporary removal of a person’s firearms if that person is believed to present a danger to themselves or others.
Last year, one of Brown’s most intense criticisms of Laxalt came in the form of undermining the former attorney general’s position on red flag laws. Though Laxalt and his PAC later opposed a 2019 push to create a red flag law and criticized such laws during a 2017 speech before the National Rifle Association (NRA) — it was also Laxalt’s office that, in 2018, drafted a memo backing the study and potential implementation of red flag laws in the first place.
At the time, Brown said in a statement that “I would never recommend giving a predominantly liberal judiciary nearly unfettered discretion” to restrict access to guns under the Second Amendment.
On the campaign trail last year, Brown was heavily critical of Big Tech companies, arguing on his campaign website that they “routinely abuse their power through privacy invasions and the manipulation of public discourse through online censorship and suppression,” particularly of conservative voices.
Brown dealt with his own Twitter account being suspended briefly in 2021. Though the company tied the suspension to a technical error, Brown’s campaign said at the time the company was “unfairly targeting the Republican U.S. Senate candidate.”
In last year’s debate against Laxalt, Brown addressed Section 230 of the Telecommunications Act of 1996 — the federal law that limits legal liability for tech giants by allowing social media companies to operate as platforms, rather than as traditional publications — saying that major tech companies should be held to the same standards as publications when they choose to moderate speech.
On Tuesday, he said he remained concerned about online censorship, but did not take a position on antitrust legislation, which has generally aimed to prevent the dominance of Big Tech companies. He described that as getting into a realm of “hypothetical ideas.”
Reporter Jacob Solis contributed to this story.