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Election denier Jim Marchant running for Senate seat in Nevada

Marchant lost last year’s race for Nevada secretary of state.
Image: Jim Marchant speaks with people at a campaign event Nov. 6, 2022, in Las Vegas.
Jim Marchant speaks with people at a campaign event Nov. 6 in Las Vegas.John Locher / AP file
/ Source: The Associated Press

LAS VEGAS — Jim Marchant, a Nevada Republican who led a movement of candidates who promoted Donald Trump’s lies of a stolen 2020 election, announced Tuesday that he will run for the U.S. Senate against Democratic incumbent Jacky Rosen in the swing state.

The entrance of Marchant, who lost last year’s race for Nevada secretary of state, may be another headache for national Republicans who are trying to prevent a repeat of the midterms, when voters in Nevada and other battleground states rejected candidates who ran on election conspiracies, allowing Democrats to increase their hold on the Senate.

Democrats face an even tougher environment to keep their slim majority in 2024. Nevada is likely to be one of the nation’s most competitive Senate races after hosting the closest contest of 2022. Democratic incumbent Catherine Cortez Masto eked out a narrow victory over another high-profile election denier, Adam Laxalt.

Marchant, 66, has been a fierce supporter of Trump and his “Make America Great Again” movement and describes himself as a “MAGA conservative.” He’s the first major Republican to challenge Rosen, a first-term moderate.

“We have to encourage principled, ‘America first’ MAGA candidates to run for office,” Marchant told about 200 invited guests at a suburban Las Vegas church.

Marchant, a former one-term state Assembly member who also lost a bid for Congress three years ago, raised his national profile last year as the organizer of a coalition of 17 GOP candidates who falsely purported that the 2020 presidential election was stolen from Trump. All but one of those candidates lost, including Marchant.

Rosen, 65, was president of a prominent Jewish synagogue before defeating GOP Sen. Dean Heller in 2018. She has not drawn a party challenger since announcing last month that she would seek reelection in the perennial battleground state. Two unknown and nearly unfunded Republicans, Rhonda Kennedy and Stephanie Phillips, and an independent, Bradley Scott Wing, have submitted their names to the Federal Election Commission.

Federal campaign financial reports for the filing period ending March 31 showed Rosen raised more than $10 million for the race and had $6 million to spend. Marchant was not yet listed by the FEC on Tuesday. State election reports showed he spent almost $550,000 on his secretary of state bid.

Marchant appeared most often during his statewide campaign at remote public places and on far-right media outlets including Steve Bannon’s “War Room” podcast, where he endorsed false election claims, including that all Nevada elected officials since 2006 had been “installed by the deep-state cabal.”

He also toured rural Nevada counties to encourage local lawmakers to get rid of voting machines and adopt paper ballots and was the architect of a hand-count in rural Nye County, which became one of the first jurisdictions nationwide to attempt the slower, less reliable method of counting votes.

The Nye County effort was ultimately conducted alongside machines due to state regulations, a string of lawsuits and concerns from the Republican Nevada secretary of state, who was censured by the party for pushing back against false claims of widespread election fraud.

Democrat Francisco “Cisco” Aguilar defeated Marchant in November, running on a platform of repairing trust in elections and protecting poll workers.

Marchant and Laxalt, a former Nevada state attorney general, both lost their midterm races, even as Republican Joe Lombardo won the race for governor. Lombardo distanced himself from Trump at times during his campaign and never offered an endorsement of unfounded claims that the 2020 presidential election was stolen due to widespread fraud.

Marchant’s defeat marked a pattern among election conspiracy theorists who sought to gain control of elections in competitive states. Among his coalition of 17 like-minded Republican candidates, only one was elected: Diego Morales, now secretary of state in Indiana. Election deniers lost all top races in swing states.