Battle for Congress: Republicans pick favorites in Nevada, South Carolina

battle for congress: republicans pick favorites in nevada, south carolina

The U.S. Capitol building is pictured as the U.S. Senate begins consideration of a $95 billion Ukraine-Israel aid package, on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., April 23, 2024. REUTERS/Julia Nikhinson/ File Photo

By David Morgan

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Republican Sam Brown will try to walk away with his party's nomination for the U.S. Senate on Tuesday in Nevada, one of four states where voters will make their party picks for the November general election.

Brown, a former U.S. Army captain backed by Senate Republicans, including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, hopes to fend off two rivals, including Donald Trump's former U.S. ambassador to Iceland Jeff Gunter, in a battle that could impact Republican hopes of winning Senate control.

The winner will face Democratic incumbent Jacky Rosen in the Nov. 5 election.

Nevada is a highly competitive state that will play an important role in determining control of the Senate and whether Democratic President Joe Biden or his Republican challenger Trump win the White House.

Democrats hold a 51-49 Senate majority. With one-third of the chamber's seats up for grabs, Republicans have an easier path to recapturing the majority. Democrats are defending vulnerable seats in Arizona, Michigan, Montana, Nevada, Pennsylvania, Ohio and Wisconsin, while Republicans are up for reelection in states not seen as competitive.

Control of the House of Representatives is also at stake. On that front, voters in South Carolina will decide the fate of U.S. Representative Nancy Mace, who raised eyebrows in her moderate Republican district last year by joining party hardliners to oust Speaker Kevin McCarthy, causing weeks of chaos in Congress.

A two-term congresswoman endorsed by Trump, Mace hopes to fend off a challenge from Catherine Templeton, a conservative who served in the cabinet of former South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley, who won the district in the state's presidential primary earlier this year.

Templeton is backed by McCarthy, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and one of Mace's South Carolina Republican colleagues in Congress, U.S. Representative Joe Wilson.

In Maine, Republican voters will choose a nominee to challenge Democratic U.S. Representative Jared Golden in the general election. The party favorite is state Representative Austin Theriault, a former NASCAR stock car driver who is endorsed by Trump and House Speaker Mike Johnson.

Republican voters also head to the polls in North Dakota, where they will nominate a contender to replace Governor Doug Burgum, who is viewed as a possible Trump running mate. U.S. Representative Kelly Armstrong is vying for the nomination against Lieutenant Governor Tammy Miller, who has Burgum's endorsement.

In Nevada, Brown has emerged as the leading candidate, earning an 11th-hour Trump endorsement in his fight against Gunter and former state Assemblyman Jim Marchant, who have both aligned themselves with Trump.

"Sam Brown is a FEARLESS AMERICAN PATRIOT, a Purple Heart Recipient, who has proven he has the 'PURE GRIT' and COURAGE to take on our Enemies, both Foreign and Domestic," Trump wrote on social media after failing to endorse Brown at a Las Vegas rally on Sunday.

"Sam has my Complete and Total Endorsement - HE WILL NEVER LET YOU DOWN!"

Brown is a veteran of Afghanistan, where he was injured by an improvised explosive device that caused burns to 30% of his body.

In the absence of a Trump endorsement, Gunter had tried to exploit Brown's support from the official Senate Republican campaign operation by appealing to rank-and-file party dislike for McConnell, who has been a favorite target for Trump in recent years.

Brown lost the 2022 Republican Senate primary to Trump-backed Republican Adam Laxalt, who then failed to unseat Nevada's other Democratic senator, Catherine Cortez Masto.

Opinion polls show him trailing Rosen by double digits.

(Reporting by David Morgan; Editing by Scott Malone and Richard Chang)

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