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Nevada has some competitive GOP primaries, as Republicans aim to unseat Democrats

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

President Trump's election lie is still very much at play in this year's midterm elections. Today, we're looking at Nevada. It's one of several states holding primaries. Republicans there are trying to unseat Democrats in a number of races. Bert Johnson from KUNR in Reno has been following them. And when we spoke, we started with the race for U.S. Senate.

BERT JOHNSON, BYLINE: The front-runner so far is Adam Laxalt. Recent polls have him up by double digits over his challengers. And Laxalt's a former state attorney general who lost the 2018 race for governor. He also comes from a political family. His grandfather was Nevada governor and a U.S. senator. Laxalt's been endorsed by Trump, and he was the co-chair of Trump's 2020 campaign in Nevada. He parroted the former president's election lies in that role, and he led a bunch of unsuccessful lawsuits to overturn the election. But he's facing a challenge from retired Army Captain Sam Brown, who's been raising more than Laxalt in terms of small-dollar donations. The Republican nominee is going to face off against Senator Catherine Cortez Masto, and forecasters see it as a toss-up race in what's likely to be a tough environment for Democrats.

MARTIN: Yeah. So say more about that - tough for Democrats. Is that also the case for state offices?

JOHNSON: You know, it is. There's a similar dynamic for the governor's race, for example. Republicans are lining up to take on a Democratic incumbent. Leading the pack on the GOP side is Joe Lombardo, the sheriff of Clark County. He gained national attention for his response to the mass shooting on the Las Vegas Strip. And now he has the endorsement of former President Trump, and he's ahead in the polls.

The secretary of state's race is another one to watch. Republican incumbent Barbara Cegavske is term-limited so she can't run again. And in 2020, she actually stood up to the Trump campaign's baseless election fraud claims, so the state GOP censured her. Now a number of candidates are vying to replace Cegavske, including Democrat Cisco Aguilar and, on the Republican side, Jim Marchant, who's repeated Trump's election lies. And he actually spoke at a QAnon convention in Las Vegas last year, too.

MARTIN: I mean, Bert, that is multiple candidates who you've just mentioned there - Republicans who've all made these baseless claims about the 2020 election. Do you hear that false narrative a lot in Nevada?

JOHNSON: You do. In fact, I just published a report with my colleague Tabitha Mueller from one of our partner newsrooms, The Nevada Independent. We were looking into state legislative races in that case. And there's a candidate running in about a third of those districts who supports the, quote, "big lie." Some of them explicitly say it. Others, especially the Republican incumbents, won't come out and say it directly, but they cast doubts on the results.

MARTIN: OK, Bert Johnson of KUNR in Reno, it's primary day in Nevada. He's been giving us a preview. Thank you so much, Bert.

JOHNSON: Thank you.

MARTIN: We should note the other states holding primaries today - South Carolina, Maine and North Dakota. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.