Former Trump official shakes up crucial battleground Senate race with major announcement

EXCLUSIVE: A former Trump official is making waves in one of this year’s crucial battleground Senate races, one that could determine whether Republicans win control of the Senate from Democrats.

Republican Nevada Senate candidate Jeff Gunter, the former U.S. ambassador to Iceland, announced on Tuesday that his campaign would be ramping up ahead of the state’s June 11 primary by launching a multi-million dollar ad campaign that will run in all major television markets from Las Vegas to Reno. It will also include radio and digital advertising, as well as texting.

The $3.3 million buy, which includes an ad praising Gunter as “110% pro-Trump,” comes as a major challenge to Gunter’s primary opponent, former U.S. Army officer Sam Brown. A number of national Republicans, including the National Republican Senatorial Committee — the group tasked with winning a majority for the GOP — have already backed Brown.

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Jeff Gunter, Sam Brown

Former U.S. Ambassador to Iceland Jeff Gunter and former U.S. Army officer Sam Brown. (State Department, Sam Brown for Nevada)

Gunter touted his belief in “America First policies,” his support for former President Donald Trump, and that he was the only candidate capable of defeating incumbent Democrat Sen. Jacky Rosen in the November general election during an interview with Fox News Digital ahead of the buy announcement.

“It’s quite simple. If not now, when? And the reality is, if not me, who else?” Gunter, a dermatologist, said as he referenced his decades of experience treating patients in Nevada and his time serving as a diplomat overseas.

“We have people pouring over our border. We have kids dying of fentanyl. We have crime in the streets. We have chaos around the world internationally … Can I just sit back at home and do nothing given the depth and breadth of experience and who I am? And the answer is absolutely not,” he said.

Gunter detailed how he — prior to being nominated by Trump for the ambassador role in 2018 — was a disaffected Democrat, and compared that experience to the late former President Ronald Reagan’s famous line: “I didn’t leave the Democratic Party, the Democratic Party left me.”

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Jeff Gunter

Former U.S. Ambassador to Iceland Jeff Gunter is running for Senate in Nevada as a Republican. (Dr. Jeff Gunter for Senate)

“For me, that process started after 9/11. We saw … extreme left-wing progressives were taking over the Democrat Party. It is not a party that someone like John F. Kennedy would be a part of. It’s become a bunch of radical progressives that are leaning and pushing a Marxist agenda, and there is no doubt about that,” Gunter said. 

“The Democrat Party is no place for me. The Democrat Party is no place for Nevada. The Democrat Party, honestly, is no place for Jacky Rosen. And, that’s why when I’m the next U.S. senator, we’re going to replace her, and we’re going to replace her with strong conservative America First principles and values, and that’s going to create greatness here in Nevada,” he added.

Gunter faces a crowded Republican primary field that most notably includes Brown, veteran Air Force pilot Tony Grady, and former state Assemblyman Jim Marchant, among a number of others.

To become the party’s nominee in November, Gunter says to look no further than the support he gives his old boss.

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Jeff Gunter, Donald Trump

Then-U.S. Ambassador to Iceland Jeff Gunter (right) stands for a photo with then-President Donald Trump. (Dr. Jeff Gunter for Senate)

“If you look at my campaign, I’m 110% supportive of Donald Trump … Look at his policies. Look what he’s done. Look at the 1% inflation and 3.5% unemployment, no endless wars, stability around the world, closing our border, stopping crime, giving us the greatest tax cut ever in American history, and really unifying so many of us around those amazing America First principles. It’s very Reaganesque,” Gunter said. 

“We have a newfound patriotism with President Trump, and also a newfound common sense. So much of what President Trump says is just plain common sense. And that was really the wisdom that Ronald Reagan imparted to us during the Reagan Revolution. And that’s what we saw also during the Trump years as well,” he added.

Should Gunter become the Republican nominee, he will have to face another challenging obstacle in his path to the Senate, one that has escaped Nevada Republicans in recent election cycles: Ousting a Democrat incumbent. The party came close to defeating incumbent Democrat Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto with former Nevada Attorney General Adam Laxalt in 2022, but ultimately fell less than 8,000 votes short.

Republicans hope Trump’s presence on the ballot — in tandem with President Biden’s unpopularity — will drive more GOP-leaning voters to the polls, something Gunter said would fall heavily in his favor if he was the nominee.

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Democratic Nevada Sen. Jacky Rosen

Sen. Jacky Rosen speaks on June 16, 2023, at the East Vegas Library in Las Vegas. (Madeline Carter/Las Vegas Review-Journal/Tribune News Service via Getty Images)

“One of the great advocates that I have for me winning the U.S. Senate is Joe Biden. He’s an absolute complete 100% disaster,” he said before adding that Republicans also needed to “aggressively pursue” ballot harvesting and “beat Democrats at their own game.”

“When people look to Jacky Rosen — rubber stamp Rosen, 93% voting supporting Joe Biden … That’s not good for Nevada. It’s not good for America. That voting creates the inflation that we’ve had, creates the instability around the world, creates wars that are just endless, whether it’s in Ukraine or the Middle East,” he said. 

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“Her votes and her support of Joe Biden help me and help all of us put America First policies forward. But we take back not only the White House with Donald Trump, but we take back the Senate with a big red wave coming out of Nevada, and going across the country,” he added.

Fox News Digital has reached out to Rosen’s campaign for comment.

Elections analysts rate the race as either “lean” or “tilt” Democratic.

Get the latest updates from the 2024 campaign trail, exclusive interviews and more at our Fox News Digital election hub.

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