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Brown avoids abortion issue on campaign, but attends anti-abortion rights gala


Brown avoids abortion issue on campaign, but attends anti-abortion rights gala

Oct 03, 2023 | 9:00 am ET
By April Corbin Girnus
Brown avoids abortion issue on campaign, but attends anti-abortion rights gala
Photo posted to Facebook by Douglas County Commissioner Mark Steven Gardner, Amy Brown, Laura Gardner, and Sam Brown at the Nevada Right to Life gala in Reno in September.

Republican U.S. Senate candidate Sam Brown last month quietly attended an anti-abortion rights organization’s annual gala — a hint at where he stands on an issue he has largely tried to downplay on the campaign trail.

Brown and his campaign did not publicize his attendance at Nevada Right to Life’s 16th Annual Friends for Life Gala — held on Sept. 8 at The Reno Ballroom — but Douglas County Commissioner Mark Gardner posted a photo on social media of himself with the retired Army captain and their wives at the event.

The Current reached out to the Brown campaign to confirm his attendance but did not receive a response.

A desire to avoid being publicly connected to an anti-abortion rights group is not unexpected from any candidate hoping to survive both a GOP primary where they must appease a far-right base and a general election where a majority of voters will be more supportive of reproductive rights.

After coming in second to Adam Laxalt in Nevada’s 2022 GOP Senate primary, Brown is now backed by the national Republican establishment for 2024, but he faces a crowded primary that includes former state Assemblyman turned virulent election denier Jim Marchant and former Trump ambassador to Iceland Jeff Gunter.

The primary winner will go on to the general election and attempt to unseat Sen. Jacky Rosen (D-NV) in a race likely to be watched across the nation. 

Abortion rights issues are expected to be a key issue in 2024. Rosen has already touted an endorsement from Planned Parenthood Action Fund, and she has been an outspoken critic of Sen. Tommy Tuberville (R-AL), who for months blocked military promotions in protest of new abortion travel policies within the Department of Defense.

Rosen and Democrats have attempted to paint Brown as “an anti-choice extremist.”

“I am pro life,” Brown states on his campaign website. The blurb goes on to say he will oppose “any bill that pushes for federal funding of abortion, late term abortions, or abortion without parental notification” and that he “will support federal judges who understand the importance of protecting life.”

But he has avoided expressing his opinion on Nevada’s existing abortion protections or taking a position on the potential for a federal ban on abortion. When asked by KSNV in July whether he supports restricting abortion access in Nevada, Brown sidestepped answering, saying he wanted to support adoption and prenatal and postnatal care for mothers. 

He added, “And the simple fact of the matter is, Nevada law is not changing.”

Declaring abortion access a settled matter has been the go-to strategy for GOP candidates. Republican Joe Lombardo on the gubernatorial trail said something similar when asked about Nevada law’s existing protection of abortion rights, though he stumbled and changed positions on other issues, including support for a nationwide abortion ban.

The Nevada Independent last month reported that Brown, when he was a congressional candidate in Texas nearly a decade ago, expressed support for a 20-week ban on abortion there. When asked for comment on that prior support, Brown said he was “pro-life, with exceptions for the tragic cases of rape, incest and situations where the mother’s life is at risk.”

Brown has called Rosen “extreme” and “out of step” with Nevadans’ values for supporting proposed legislation to codify the protections that fell with the overturning of Roe v. Wade.

The Current reached out to Brown’s campaign and asked him to clarify but did not receive a response.

Brown isn’t the only GOP Senate candidate to be vague on the issue of abortion. Dr. Jeff Gunter in an interview with the Las Vegas Review-Journal declined to answer whether he’d support a national ban. His website, as well as Jim Marchant’s, have no mention of abortion issues.

Marchant was endorsed by the Nevada Right to Life during the 2020 GOP Congressional District 4 primary, and the National Right to Life PAC endorsed him in that year’s general election against Democrat Rep. Steven Horsford. In their endorsement letter, the PAC noted Marchant’s support for a federal 20-week abortion ban.

Nevada Right to Life describes its mission as “protecting life from conception to natural death” and opposes abortion at all stages of pregnancy.

The advertised headliner at the Sept. 8 event attended by Brown was Seth Dillon, the CEO of The Babylon Bee, a right-wing satire site that posts videos with titles like “The Gender Fairy Will Grant Your Gender Wishes.” He has been outspoken about his extreme positions on abortion.

“I don’t think murder fixes a rape,” Dillon told Joe Rogan last year after the podcaster defended the right for a 14-year-old to receive an abortion after rape.

“Abortion is not a human right,” Dillon posted on social media the week after the Nevada gala, “it is a human rights violation.”

Tickets to the Nevada Right to Life event started at $125 for individuals or $1,000 for a 10-person table, according to promotional materials.

In his social media post, Douglas County Commissioner Mark Gardner wrote he sat at table with Sam Brown, Republican National Committeeman (and one-time fake elector) Jim DeGraffenreid, state Assemblyman Ken Gray (R-Dayton), Douglas County Republican Party Chairman Jim McKalip, and their respective wives.

Gardner has endorsed Brown in the GOP Senate primary.

Brown, like many political candidates, often posts about the various events he attends. He posted about the Douglas County Rodeo, which he and his wife attended on the same weekend as the gala. He did not post about Nevada Right to Life.