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Laxalt, Brown clash over voter fraud in GOP Senate race

May 10, 2022 GMT
At a television studio in Reno, Nevada, Republican Senate hopefuls Sam Brown, right, and Adam Laxalt, second from right, prepare for a debate on Monday, May 9, 2022, taped for broadcast this week on "Nevada Newsmakers." The show is moderated by host Sam Shad, far left, and Victor Joecks, second from left, of the Las Vegas Review-Journal. Both candidates for the seat held by Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto, D-Nev., are U.S. military veterans. (AP Photo/Scott Sonner)
At a television studio in Reno, Nevada, Republican Senate hopefuls Sam Brown, right, and Adam Laxalt, second from right, prepare for a debate on Monday, May 9, 2022, taped for broadcast this week on "Nevada Newsmakers." The show is moderated by host Sam Shad, far left, and Victor Joecks, second from left, of the Las Vegas Review-Journal. Both candidates for the seat held by Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto, D-Nev., are U.S. military veterans. (AP Photo/Scott Sonner)
At a television studio in Reno, Nevada, Republican Senate hopefuls Sam Brown, right, and Adam Laxalt, second from right, prepare for a debate on Monday, May 9, 2022, taped for broadcast this week on "Nevada Newsmakers." The show is moderated by host Sam Shad, far left, and Victor Joecks, second from left, of the Las Vegas Review-Journal. Both candidates for the seat held by Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto, D-Nev., are U.S. military veterans. (AP Photo/Scott Sonner)
At a television studio in Reno, Nevada, Republican Senate hopefuls Sam Brown, right, and Adam Laxalt, second from right, prepare for a debate on Monday, May 9, 2022, taped for broadcast this week on "Nevada Newsmakers." The show is moderated by host Sam Shad, far left, and Victor Joecks, second from left, of the Las Vegas Review-Journal. Both candidates for the seat held by Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto, D-Nev., are U.S. military veterans. (AP Photo/Scott Sonner)
At a television studio in Reno, Nevada, Republican Senate hopefuls Sam Brown, right, and Adam Laxalt, second from right, prepare for a debate on Monday, May 9, 2022, taped for broadcast this week on "Nevada Newsmakers." The show is moderated by host Sam Shad, far left, and Victor Joecks, second from left, of the Las Vegas Review-Journal. Both candidates for the seat held by Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto, D-Nev., are U.S. military veterans. (AP Photo/Scott Sonner)

RENO, Nev. (AP) — Republican Senate hopefuls Adam Laxalt and Sam Brown clashed Monday over Laxalt’s performance as chairman of then-President Donald Trump’s 2020 campaign in Nevada and whether he did enough to combat voter fraud when he was attorney general.

Few philosophical differences emerged between the two conservatives during an hour debate taped for broadcast this week on “Nevada Newsmakers” as they seek the GOP nomination to face Democratic Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto in November.

At one point, Brown did voice opposition to outlawing same-sex marriages, something Laxalt has advocated in the past.

The series of sharp exchanges came in the final minutes after Laxalt touted his record as Nevada attorney general from 2015-19 and current endorsements from Trump, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and others.

Brown then went on the offensive against the perceived front-runner in the GOP primary.

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“Mr. Laxalt relies on endorsements because Nevadans can’t rely on him,” Brown said, listing “election integrity” as an example of “where he failed us.”

Calling that claim “pretty comical,” Laxalt said that as chairman of Trump’s Nevada campaign he “sounded every alarm imaginable as the Democrats radically altered our election.”

“Unfortunately, they gave us a system that created the opportunity for fraud and made voters feel like we got a much less safe system,” he said. He said the secretary of state, not attorney general, is responsible for investigating voter fraud in Nevada.

Brown said that while Laxalt was attorney general he knew that “non-citizens” registered to vote and voted in Nevada elections.

“When President Trump, Nevadans and Americans were relying on you to be the one to challenge any sort of issues in the 2020 election, the only thing you did was file a lawsuit, that by your own admission was late,” Brown told him. “Nevadans deserve better and you need to be honest about your record.”

Laxalt then took a swipe at Brown’s decision to move to Nevada after he lost a state legislative primary in Texas in 2014.

“Sam, you need to be honest with the voters,” Laxalt said. “You were running in Texas and living in Texas when you are accusing me of not doing these things I never had power to do.”

Laxalt said Trump endorsed him “because he knows I did the best I possibly could standing up for our election.” He said Democratic Gov. Steve Sisolak and the Democratic-controlled Legislature “changed the rules” for voter registration and “unfortunately, there was nothing much we could do about that.”

Laxalt described himself as “a co-chair of the campaign” who was “not in charge of litigation.”

“That was the Trump campaign — they hired lawyers, they filed the lawsuits,” he said.

Brown countered: “As the chairman of the Trump campaign, at what point do you accept responsibility for the lack of lawyers performing or the failure of lawsuits to be filed on time?”

Laxalt said it was a national effort coordinated by the Republican National Committee. “They got caught flat-footed, and we simply did not get the resources that we needed here,” he said.

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Brown said it showed a lack leadership that underscored Laxalt’s refusal to take responsibility for his actions.

“Nevadans deserve better. We are not going to settle for people who blame everyone else when they fail,” he said.

Both candidates are U.S. military veterans. Laxalt, the grandson of the late Nevada Gov. and U.S. Sen. Paul Laxalt, served in Iraq. Brown served in Afghanistan, where his face was badly burned in an explosion.

Both criticized the Biden administration’s handling of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and said they would not send U.S. troops there.

On social issues, each described himself as “pro-life.”

Moderator Sam Shad asked whether they thought the recent leak of the draft Supreme Court opinion suggesting the justices might overturn abortion rights under Roe v. Wade could also eventually bring an end to same-sex marriages.

Laxalt said it was a hypothetical question that Democrats were trying to capitalize on in an effort to divide Americans, but declined to say whether he’d support such a move.

Brown said he didn’t think there was any chance that would happen, but that the “broader question is why is government in the business of marriage to begin with?”

“I think this is what Americans are tired of: A government that wants to get further and further involved in people’s lives,” he said.