GARDNERVILLE — Former Nevada attorney general and 2018 Republican candidate for governor Adam Laxalt did not announce his 2022 candidacy for U.S. Senate against incumbent Catherine Cortez Masto at a Basque-themed political barbecue in Douglas County on Saturday.
Arkansas Republican Sen. Tom Cotton did it for him.
“Right now, the Democrats are in charge in Washington, but we’re gonna change that come 2022, and that change starts right here in Nevada when Adam Laxalt sends Cathy Cortez Masto packing home for Nevada,” Cotton told a crowd of some 4,000 at the Laxalt-sponsored sixth annual Basque Fry at the Corley Ranch.
“Was I not supposed to say that?” Cotton continued in jest. “Adam, I guess, he’s not supposed to say that he’s gonna be your next senator. There’s some campaign finance rules against it. But what do I care about some stupid rules like that? Adam Laxalt is going to the United States Senate for the Battle Born State in 2022, and not a moment too soon, either.”
Cotton added that Laxalt was “probably gonna have an exciting announcement in the days ahead.”
For his part, the presumptive candidate, in his welcome to the crowd before Cotton spoke, made not the slightest hint about his anticipated candidacy, instead using his time to decry familiar conservative bogeymen including the media, the “ruling elite,” critical race theory, and a“cancerous leftist culture.”
“We’re in grave trouble as a country and a state,” Laxalt said, condemning “terrible, radical leftist ideas” that originate among intellectuals before being “pushed into our culture.”
“We all know there’s nothing but lies out there every single day,” Laxalt said as he concluded his remarks. “The people are ready to stand with us. Our state is ready to fight against this. Americans are ready to fight against this. Let’s go get it.”
Laxalt was not made available to answer questions about his expected candidacy at the event.
The Basque Fry has become a signature political fundraiser and rally in Northern Nevada for conservatives and for Laxalt’s Morning In Nevada political action committee, this year drawing some 3,600 paid attendees and 400 guests, organizers said.
The crowd was itself shielded from frying Saturday under tents to protect from a scorching August sun untempered by the blanketing haze of wildfire smoke that has lingered over the Nevada’s western boundary for much of the summer.
Though his remarks stirred the crowd, Laxalt was at least partly upstaged by Cotton, who more or less took over lead speaker duties for the event after Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis pulled out Friday, citing an approaching tropical storm in his state. Even DeSantis, in taped remarks streamed at the event, put Laxalt in the running.
“Nevada would be well served, and he’d make a great impact on our country,” DeSantis said, before turning to attack President Joe Biden and other Democrats.
Cotton took a swipe at Cortez Masto and Nevada Democrats, saying the state party “is now taken over by honest to god Democratic Socialists.” A slate of candidates representing the state party’s most liberal wing took control of the party in March, creating an intraparty split and engendering the offshoot of a second party organization for establishment Democrats under the banner “Nevada Democratic Victory.”
A statement from the latter group Saturday characterized Cotton’s surprise announcement as Laxalt’s “failure to launch” before pivoting to criticize Laxalt’s role last year, as state campaign co-chair for President Donald Trump, in challenging the outcome of the presidential election in Nevada.
Cortez Masto, along with Gov. Steve Sisolak and other elected Democrats, backed the formation of the offshoot establishment wing. Nonetheless, Cotton, in his remarks, accused her of holding a “left wing voting record” to “placate all the socialists back in her Democratic Party in Nevada.”
A Cortez Masto campaign spokesman responded that the senator “believes in capitalism and making sure our economy works for everyone,” adding that she “works across the aisle to get things done” and citing her support for the $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure package the Senate passed Tuesday.
Contact Capital Bureau reporter Bill Dentzer at email@example.com. Follow @DentzerNews on Twitter.