May 20, 2024 - Politics & Policy

In Nevada, another GOP Senate contender downplays stance on abortion

Republican U.S. Senate candidate Sam Brown talks to the media while waiting for election results at his campaign office on June 14, 2022 in Reno, Nevada.

Republican Senate candidate Sam Brown at his campaign office during his 2022 run for Senate. Photo: Josh Edelson/Getty Images

The Republican frontrunner in Nevada's hotly contested Senate race is quietly reframing his work with a conservative group he led last year, de-emphasizing its opposition to abortion and playing up his focus on other issues.

Why it matters: Sam Brown appears to be the most recent Republican to try to cloud their anti-abortion views ahead of the 2024 election, after a series of elections in which the GOP has been punished for orchestrating the fall of Roe v. Wade.

  • Brown is seeking the GOP nomination to unseat Sen. Jacky Rosen (D-Nev.) in a state that is a key battleground for the presidential race and the fight over which party will control the Senate.

Zoom in: Brown, who unsuccessfully sought the GOP Senate nomination two years ago, led the Nevada branch of the Faith and Freedom Coalition between his 2022 and 2024 campaigns.

  • The group is an offshoot of the national Faith and Freedom Coalition, a staunchly anti-abortion organization that has supported some of the toughest state-level abortion restrictions — including Texas' ban on the procedure after six weeks of pregnancy.
  • Brown — a former Army captain who was severely burned after a roadside bomb detonated in Afghanistan in 2008 — was featured prominently on the state organization's website before declaring his Senate candidacy last July, according to archives of the site.
  • Today, Brown's footprint on the organization's website essentially has been erased, aside from a 2022 press release announcing his appointment as the group's chair.

Brown has described the state organization as a "spinoff" of the national group, but also has called it a "separate entity."

  • His campaign says his efforts with the Nevada group were focused more on issues such as human trafficking, rather than abortion.
  • "His efforts were focused on several critical issues facing our state: combating human trafficking, advocating for meaningful criminal justice reform, and supporting the devastated communities recovering from the COVID-19 shutdowns," Kristy Wilkinson, Brown's communications director, told Axios.

Brown's precise position on abortion has become a bit murky.

  • His campaign website describes him as "pro-life," but it's unclear where he draws the line. He supported a 20-week ban when he ran for state office in Texas in 2014.
  • Like many Republicans this election cycle, Brown says abortion legislation is an issue for states to decide — and that because Nevadans have protected such rights in the state constitution, he wouldn't support a federal abortion ban.
  • He says he supports abortion restrictions that include exceptions for rape, incest and the health of the mother.
  • Brown's wife, Amy Brown, went public in February about her own experience of getting an abortion in her 20s.

Other Republicans — mindful of how anger over abortion restrictions helped Democrats in the 2022 midterms and several state elections in the past two years — have tacked to the middle on abortion, or at least defanged their stances.

  • Arizona MAGA Republican Kari Lake, who's seeking a Senate seat in that swing state, previously supported an abortion ban in the state but has since come out against such a measure.
  • Larry Hogan, a moderate Republican running for a Senate seat in heavily Democratic Maryland, vetoed a bill when he was governor that would have widened access to abortion.
  • But this week Hogan said he's "pro choice," and added that he supports codifying abortion rights into federal law.

In Brown's case, he's facing a November ballot in Nevada that's expected to include a broad measure to guarantee reproductive rights.

  • Rosen, along with Nevada Democrats, have cast Brown as a far-right backer of strict abortion limits.
  • Nevada Democrats have pointed to reports that Brown's campaign website refers women considering abortions to counseling centers that encourage women to continue their pregnancies.
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