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An Explosion in Afghanistan Nearly Killed Him. Now, It’s Inspiring His Senate Bid.

Lying in an Afghan desert, ravaged by flames and drenched in diesel, Sam Brown realized he was about to die.

It was September 2008, and Mr. Brown, who was then a lieutenant in the US Army, was leading his platoon to rescue his comrades who had fallen into an ambush by the Taliban. Then his Humvee hit a roadside bomb. With a burst of fire and a crashing sound, Mr. Brown’s life was changed forever.

“I remember lying there face down in the Kandahar desert, trying to scoop dirt on myself to smother the flames, to no avail, and wondering: How long will it take? he to die burned? What happens when I die? » Mr. Brown recalled this in an interview with the New York Times. “And then, literally, making the decision to give up the will to live.”

But he survived. A comrade, also injured in the explosion, rescued Mr. Brown and his platoon gave him first aid until he could be evacuated to a hospital. In a Texas burn unit, he underwent more than 30 surgeries during his three-year recovery and was left with permanent scars.

Today, Mr. Brown, 40, who retired as a captain for medical reasons, is the leading Republican seeking to challenge Senator Jacky Rosen, a Democrat, in what is expected to be one of the Senate races the most competitive of this cycle, with the potential to determine control of the room. At campaign stops, Mr. Brown does not dwell on his dramatic history, focusing instead on inflation, which many Nevadans have felt acutely, and at the border. But his experience is a central part of his appeals to supporters as he works to raise the kind of money needed to run a statewide campaign against a well-funded incumbent.

His emails frequently contain lines such as “God is real. I almost met him” and “They blew up my body, but they will never destroy my mind.” » He compared headlines about President Biden’s “fiery” attitude to his own burn scars. “You want to see fire, my friend? I am literally fiery,” read one email, which included a photo of his scarred face. “I will stay in the fire. I will take the flames.

And Mr. Brown was inspired to run for office, he said, because he wanted to help people who were suffering in their darkest moments, the same way a comrade had saved him in Afghanistan.

“I see a lot of despair in our country right now,” he said, “and I approach this Senate race with the perspective of having been the beneficiary and blessing of someone who is came to my aid when I needed it. it’s the most.

Mr. Brown, who was unsuccessful in the 2022 Republican Senate primary in Nevada and has never held elected office, could face a formidable opponent in Ms. Rosen. His campaign plans to emphasize his bipartisan reputation while arguing that Mr. Brown’s relatively short time in the state — he moved from Dallas to Reno in 2018 — and various startup jobs, d he non-profit and consulting roles he’s held over the past 12 years since leaving the military doesn’t make him best suited to help the people of Nevada.

Democrats are particularly keen to highlight Mr. Brown’s past opposition to abortion and his recent attempts to soften his stance. (A measure enshrining abortion access in the state Constitution is expected to come up for a vote in November, and Democrats nationally have been boosted in recent elections by the political power of the issue.)

Still, Mr. Brown could avoid some of the pitfalls of other recent candidates who were seen as too extreme for Nevada’s general electorate by avoiding a bruising primary battle, said Amy Tarkanian, the former chairwoman of the Republican Party of Nevada. Nevada.

With a big financial and electoral advantage – polls show a double-digit score in the June 11 primary – Mr. Brown avoided a debate with his rivals. Although he attended some community events, he was not particularly ubiquitous during the election campaign. In February, he acknowledged to guests at a Nevada Republican Club luncheon in Las Vegas that he had held relatively few campaign events in the state as he traveled the country raising money. (His campaign, which raised $2.4 million last quarter, has set a goal of raising $20 million total.)

What Mr. Brown has done is work to appeal to independents who could influence the general election, rather than just conservative voters, in part by changing his rhetoric on abortion. He has also avoided tying himself too closely to former President Donald J. Trump, although he has been more vocal in his praise of Mr. Trump in recent months.

“I find it refreshing to have a Republican who is willing to stand his ground and say, ‘No, that’s what I believe.’ I’m not going to give in to the noise of the far right,” Ms. Tarkanian said.

Her main rivals – and Ms. Rosen’s campaign – were less impressed. Mr. Brown waited until January to support Mr. Trump, a delay that did not go unnoticed on the right.

“He barely says President Trump’s name,” said Jeff Gunter, a primary candidate and ambassador to Iceland under Mr. Trump. “That’s part of the scam: making voters believe he’s supporting the president in some way, when he’s really not.”

Mr. Brown has recently been more open about his support for Mr. Trump and his own conservative bona fides, appearing on television networks like OAN and Newsmax, and on the podcast of Wayne Allyn Root, a right-wing conspiracy theorist. “In my opinion, President Trump’s policies have very clearly put Americans in a much better place than they are today,” Mr. Brown said. At a campaign event in Reno on Saturday, he told reporters he was “extremely conservative.”

Mr. Trump has not thrown his support behind the race, but he has shared several images on his social media site, Truth Social, that appear to indicate his enthusiasm for Mr. Brown. “Democrats are terrified of a united Trump-Brown ticket in Nevada!” » a message read. (Nevada Gov. Joe Lombardo, a Republican, has endorsed Mr. Brown.)

On abortion, Democrats say no amount of moderate language will convince voters that his views have actually changed.

“Sam Brown’s record shows he is pushing an extreme MAGA agenda that would hurt working people in Nevada,” said Johanna Warshaw, a spokeswoman for Ms. Rosen’s campaign.

During a campaign for the Texas Legislature in 2014, while living in Dallas, Mr. Brown endorsed a 20-week abortion ban with no exceptions for rape or incest, and in In the past, he has refused to say whether he would support a national ban on abortion. the procedure. After his first run for Senate, he briefly served as president of the Nevada chapter of the Faith and Freedom Coalition, a conservative Christian group that strongly opposes abortion.

More recently, he has sought to clarify his position. In an interview with NBC News in February, his wife, Amy Brown, recounted her own difficult and emotional decision to have an abortion when she was 24 and in the midst of an unplanned pregnancy. In that interview, Mr. Brown said he would not support a national ban, that he agreed with Nevada’s current law allowing abortion up to 24 weeks of pregnancy, and that he supported exceptions for rape, incest and the life of the mother.

In the Times interview, he reiterated that position, while saying he believed abortion should be left to the states — a position Mr. Trump also took.

“There is nothing I can do to change the laws of Nevada, nor am I seeking to change the laws of Nevada,” Mr. Brown said, adding, “I would not support a federal ban on abortion.” »

Some Republicans have suggested that Mr. Brown still needs to make sure voters know his position on this and other issues — and not just his life story.

“As people meet him or listen to him at meetings, they realize there is more to it than just military history,” Ms. Tarkanian said. “And he’s been in Nevada long enough now just to run for a second election, whereas Jacky Rosen has been in Nevada for, I think, over 40 years.”

Mr. Brown’s campaign argued that he had detailed his position on a variety of issues – including those as esoteric as cryptocurrency – and that he had substantial experience beyond his military experience, emphasizing his business degree and time spent running a pharmacy benefits manager, a company that helped veterans obtain their medications.

The campaign hopes to make the race a referendum on Ms. Rosen, arguing that she has done little to help Nevadans struggling with high gas prices and housing costs.

Yet his success may ultimately hinge on whether his personal story resonates with voters. Mr. Brown “has the ability to deliver a message that every voter will know come Election Day,” said Jeremy Hughes, a Republican political strategist in Nevada. “It remains an open question whether voters’ singular understanding of Sam Brown’s sacrifice of military service is enough to win him the race.”

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With a penchant for words, jack began writing at an early age. As editor-in-chief of his high school newspaper, he honed his skills telling impactful stories. Smith went on to study journalism at Columbia University, where he graduated top of his class.After interning at the New York Times, jack landed a role as a news writer. Over the past decade, he has covered major events like presidential elections and natural disasters. His ability to craft compelling narratives that capture the human experience has earned him acclaim.Though writing is his passion, jack also enjoys hiking, cooking and reading historical fiction in his free time. With an eye for detail and knack for storytelling, he continues making his mark at the forefront of journalism.
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