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Major GOP backer urges Trump to drop Laxalt

A Las Vegas businessman with ties to Donald Trump wants the former president to switch his endorsement in the GOP primary for Nevada’s U.S. Senate race.

Don Ahern, a major supporter of Republican causes, said he has spoken with Trump multiple times in recent months and has encouraged the former president to change his endorsement from presumed frontrunner Adam Laxalt to underdog candidate Sam Brown.

“I love Donald Trump and I believe once he understands the strength of Sam Brown and the weakness of Adam Laxalt, I would hope that he would change his support there,” Ahern said in an interview with the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

Nevada’s 2022 U.S. Senate race is of national importance because the outcome could swing control of the evenly divided upper chamber. The seat is held by U.S. Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto, D-Nev., who is seeking reelection.

Trump steadfast in his support

Trump endorsed Laxalt days after the former Nevada attorney general announced his candidacy.

And he isn’t budging.

In a statement to the Review-Journal on Monday, the former president doubled down on his support.

“I’ve known Adam Laxalt for a long time and support him 100%,” Trump said.

Trump spokesman Taylor Budowich would not confirm Ahern’s account, but said private conversations with the president should remain private.

He said Trump is all-in on Laxalt in the primary and general elections next year.

“Adam is the most popular conservative in Nevada because he is a proven fighter who has stood alongside President Trump and helped advance his America First agenda,” Budowich said in a text message.

Laxalt’s campaign spokesman, John Burke, said in a statement that Laxalt has been the conservative leader on the front lines from his time as attorney general through last year’s election.

He said Laxalt’s commitment to fighting for individual rights and liberties has landed him endorsements from prominent conservative figures like Trump, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas.

“Adam Laxalt will continue that fight when he is elected to the U.S. Senate,” Burke said.

Trump loyalists

Ahern is an equipment-rental tycoon who owns several companies, including a hotel in Las Vegas. He and his companies have donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to candidates and political causes over the years.

He is the finance chairman of the Nevada Republican Party and a loyal Trump supporter. Last year, two of his companies faced fines for hosting Trump campaign events that defied state-imposed pandemic restrictions.

Laxalt, also a Trump loyalist, was one of the public faces in the effort to overturn the results of the 2020 election by promoting unfounded claims of widespread voter fraud. He was Trump’s campaign co-chair in Nevada at the time.

Ahern supported Laxalt in the past, but said he severed ties with him when Laxalt supported former Republican state Sen. Michael Roberson’s campaign for lieutenant governor in the 2018 election cycle.

“I dropped him like a bomb,” Ahern said.

As state Senate majority leader, Roberson supported a business tax passed by the Nevada Legislature in 2015, a measure that Ahern strongly opposed.

Laxalt opposed the tax during his failed gubernatorial campaign in 2018.

Ahern backs Brown

Ahern is taken by Brown’s personal story as a U.S. Military Academy-educated Army veteran who was severely injured by a roadside bomb in Afghanistan.

In 2018, Brown moved to Nevada, where he now runs a business processing pharmacy claims for veterans.

He is a newcomer to Nevada politics, but raised more than $1 million in campaign contributions. Laxalt has raised more than $1.4 million.

Brown, a volunteer on Trump’s campaign last year, said in a statement that he would welcome the former president’s support.

“Nevada Republicans are ready for new conservative leadership that, like Donald Trump, doesn’t come from the political class,” he said.

Contact Blake Apgar at bapgar@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-5298. Follow @blakeapgar on Twitter.

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