Former President Donald Trump’s sway over the GOP will be tested once again on Tuesday when 13 of his preferred candidates face their primaries in Nevada, South Carolina and North Dakota.
Trump has backed nine candidates in South Carolina, two in Nevada and two in North Dakota. Nine of the 13 candidates are incumbents, who are typically favored to win their primaries due to advantages in name identification and fundraising.
The most closely watched tests of Trump’s endorsement will be in Nevada and South Carolina, where Trump’s preferred candidates are competing in competitive statewide primaries and taking on GOP House members.
Trump has endorsed Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo in the race to take on Democratic Gov. Steve Sisolak. Lombardo touted Trump’s backing in a campaign ad. He’s been the most well-funded candidate and he’s also had help from an outside group known as Better Nevada PAC, which has been the top advertiser in the race. Democrats have tried to meddle in the race, with one group tied to the Democratic Governors Association launching an ad attacking Lombardo.
The other top GOP contenders include former Sen. Dean Heller, North Vegas Mayor John Lee, venture capitalist Guy Nohra, and attorney and former boxer Joey Gilbert, who has been endorsed by the state GOP.
Trump and his allies have made a last-ditch effort to bolster former state Attorney General Adam Laxalt in the GOP primary to take on Democratic Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto. The former president also appeared in an ad backing Laxalt, who co-chaired Trump’s 2020 campaign in Nevada and led the effort to challenge the state’s election results.
Some Republicans considered Laxalt a top recruit to take on Democratic Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto. But Laxalt is facing a tougher-than-expected primary challenge from retired Army Capt. Sam Brown, who was severely burned during an IED attack in Afghanistan. Brown has pitched himself as a political outsider, a stark contrast to Laxalt, who served statewide, ran unsuccessfully for governor in 2018 and comes from a prominent Nevadan political family.
GOP Rep. Nancy Mace faces a primary challenge from Trump-endorsed Katie Arrington, a former congressional candidate and state representative who worked in the Defense Department (and who lost this seat to Democrat Joe Cunningham in 2018).
In his endorsement of Arrington, Trump called Mace “disloyal,” — he didn’t elaborate, but Mace notably told Politico that she supported Trump’s accomplishments but that they had been “wiped out” by Jan. 6. She also voted to certify the 2020 election and to side with Democrats on a contempt of Congress charge against Trump ally Steve Bannon, although she voted against impeaching Trump and the creation of an independent Jan. 6 investigative committee.
GOP Rep. Tom Rice was one of 10 Republicans who voted to impeach Trump after the Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol, placing him in Trump’s crosshairs. The former president endorsed GOP state Rep. Russell Fry, who has hit Rice on the airwaves for voting to impeach Trump, for voting to raise taxes and for being in Washington too long. Fry has spent $320,000 on ads so far.
Rice has hit back against Fry’s allegations, spending $460,000 on the airwaves to highlight the progress he’s brought to the district in the last decade and accusing Fry of missing votes in the statehouse and voting to raise taxes. “Let’s put results over revenge,” Rice says in one of his ads.
There are five other Republican candidates in this race, meaning it’s possible that the race will be forced into a runoff if no candidate wins more than 50 percent of the primary vote.