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Nevada Senate race heats up as candidates rake in donations — or loans

Nevada’s closely watched Senate and congressional races are gaining momentum as candidates seek donations from supporters — and in some cases, give hefty sums to themselves, candidates’ April quarterly fundraising reports show.

In a crowded field of GOP candidates hoping to receive the Republican nomination in June and take on Democratic Sen. Jacky Rosen in November, dark horses are closing the lead frontrunner Sam Brown has created in fundraising.

Dr. Jeff Gunter, former ambassador to Iceland under the Trump administration, loaned himself $2.7 million, which the candidate pledged to use for an ad campaign, including attack ads against Brown, whom he refers to as “Scam Brown.” In his negative ad that went live Wednesday, Gunter criticizes the Army veteran for his backing by national Republicans, saying he is beholden to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and the D.C. “swamp.”

“Despite numerous attempts to block, shut down or discredit our campaign, Scam Brown, Mitch McConnell and the DC elites are on notice: we’re not going anywhere, our momentum is soaring and we are going to spend whatever it takes to win in November,” Gunter said in a statement.

A tough Senate primary

Nevada’s U.S. Senate race is expected to be closely watched both nationally and at home in November, and its increasingly messy GOP primary is sowing division among Republicans. Brown won the endorsement of Gov. Joe Lombardo, who has painted himself as a more moderate Republican, but he hasn’t been able to secure the support of former president Donald Trump.

The presumptive 2024 Republican presidential nominee has not publicly weighed in on the race, however he has attended Gunter’s fundraiser at Mar-a-Lago. Gunter has tried to cast himself as the more pro-Trump and America First candidate in the race. The dermatologist held an “America First Celebration” with Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz at the beginning of April in Las Vegas.

In Brown’s first quarter of 2024, his campaign raised $2.4 million, bringing his total raised in the election cycle to more than $5.4 million. The Army captain has largely ignored his primary opponents and focused his ire toward Nevada’s Democratic incumbent and the Biden administration.

Republican candidates are nowhere close to raising on the level of Rosen, whose campaign reported more than $13.2 million cash on hand at the close of the reporting period and more than $5 million raised in the first quarter of 2024. Rosen has both raised and spent more than her Republican opponents, having recently launched multiple ad campaigns, including one on Tuesday highlighting her record on lowering drug prices.

Competitive congressional race

In another race that is also expected to be competitive, Democratic Rep. Susie Lee has raised over $850,000 in the first quarter of 2024, which her campaign says is the highest first quarter total for any Nevada U.S. House race.

The Democratic incumbent reported nearly $2.2 million on hand and more than 4,400 individual donations.

“Susie continues to break every record available because southern Nevadans know she is an independent problem solver who brings working class roots to Washington and common-sense solutions home to our state,” said campaign manager Kyla Sabado in a statement.

Lee has drawn a large field of Republican opponents, some of whom are self-funding their campaigns.

Dan Schwartz reported the most raised with $818,000 — $800,000 of which was a loan from himself. When the former state treasurer announced his bid for Congress, he pledged a personal $1 million contribution to his campaign.

Conservative policy analyst Drew Johnson reported $236,000 raised, with $200,000 of that loaned by himself. Former state Sen. Elizabeth Helgelien raised more than $36,000 and has not given herself a loan in the first quarter of 2024.

Other candidates running for Nevada’s 3rd Congressional District did not submit April quarterly reports to the Federal Election Commission.

Contact Jessica Hill at jehill@reviewjournal.com. Follow @jess_hillyeah on X.

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