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Cortez Masto wins in Nevada, giving Democrats Senate control

Posted at 6:48 PM, Nov 12, 2022
and last updated 2022-11-12 23:00:35-05

LAS VEGAS (AP) — Democratic Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto won election to a second term representing Nevada on Saturday, defeating Republican Adam Laxalt to clinch the party’s control of the chamber for the next two years of Joe Biden’s presidency.

With Democratic Sen. Mark Kelly’s victory in Arizona on Friday, Democrats now hold a 50-49 edge in the Senate. The party will retain control of the chamber, no matter how next month’s Georgia runoff plays out, by virtue of Vice President Kamala Harris’ tiebreaking vote.

Democrats’ hold on the Senate is a blow to Republicans’ high hopes of wresting away control of Congress in a midterm election that typically favors the party out of power. It was still unclear which party would control the House of Representatives as counting continued in razor-tight races in California and a smattering of other states.

Catherine Cortez Masto pulls ahead of Adam Laxalt by nearly 5,000 votes

Cortez Masto, the first Latina in the Senate, was considered the most vulnerable Democratic senator in the midterm elections, and the Republican Party had high hopes of flipping the seat. But despite an influx of spending on attack ads from national GOP groups, Cortez Masto managed to secure her reelection bid.

Nevada’s vote count took several days partly because of the mail voting system created by the state Legislature in 2020 that requires counties to accept ballots postmarked by Election Day if they arrive up to four days later. Laxalt had an early lead that dwindled after late-counted ballots came in from the state’s population centers in Las Vegas and Reno.

Cortez Masto, the state’s former two-term attorney general, focused her Senate campaign on the increasing threat to abortion access nationwide and worked to court the state’s Spanish-speaking residents and hourly wage earners, pointing out her support of a permanent pathway to citizenship for “Dreamers” and regularly visiting union halls and workers’ groups.

Her fundraising far outpaced Laxalt’s. She spent nearly $47 million and had more than $6 million in cash on hand through mid-October, according to OpenSecrets. Laxalt spent nearly $13 million and had about $3 million remaining during the same time.

Laxalt, a former Nevada attorney general himself who unsuccessfully ran for governor in 2018, focused on rising inflation and a struggling economy for much of his campaign, attempting to tie voters’ financial woes to policies advanced by Democrats in Congress and Biden.

Former President Donald Trump, who twice lost Nevada in his White House runs, came to the state twice to rally for Laxalt and other Republican candidates.

2022 midterm election: Nevada Republicans are fairing differently in statewide races, but why?

Democrats had an uphill battle given the nation’s turbulent economy, and Nevada exemplified the party’s challenges. The state is one of the most diverse in the nation, and its largely working class population often lives paycheck to paycheck and has struggled with both inflation and the aftershocks of the shutdown of Las Vegas’ tourist-based economy during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Roughly three-fourths of Nevada voters said the country is headed in the wrong direction, and about 5 in 10 called the economy the most important issue facing the country, according to AP VoteCast, a survey of 2,100 of the state’s voters.

Voters viewed the economy negatively, with VoteCast finding nearly 8 in 10 saying economic conditions are either not so good or poor. Only about 2 in 10 called the economy excellent or good. And about a third of voters said their families are falling behind financially.

But that didn’t necessarily translate into anger at President Joe Biden or his party. About half considered inflation the most important issue facing the U.S., but they were evenly split over whether they think higher prices are due to Biden’s policies or factors outside his control.

Nevada is also a famously live-and-let-live state, and Cortez Masto’s message on preserving abortion rights resonated. According to VoteCast, 7 in 10 wanted the procedure kept legal in all or most cases.

Steve Sisolak concedes victory to Joe Lombardo in Nevada governor's race

The Nevada State Democratic Party released the following statement:

“This midterm has been among the most challenging in our party’s history,” said Nevada State Democratic Party Chair Judith Whitmer, “Nevertheless, Democrats in Nevada and across the country have defied pundits and political trends alike. Words cannot express our pride and relief that our majority in the U.S.Senate is preserved, thanks to the reelection of Senator Catherine Cortez Masto. We’re optimistic that our House majority will be saved with help from the reelection of Congresswoman Dina Titus, Congresswoman Susie Lee, and Congressman Steven Horsford. We are excited that Attorney General Aaron Ford and Treasurer Zach Conine will be able to continue their work, now joined by Secretary of State-elect Cisco Aguilar and aided by our returning majorities in the Nevada State Legislature.

“Though we celebrate these wins, we must acknowledge the debt owed to Governor Steve Sisolak and Lt. Governor Lisa Cano Burkhead. Time and time again, they led Nevada through our state’s darkest days, always putting the needs of working people first. They ensured we emerged from every crisis more united than ever. Our state will be losing two great leaders, and while we are profoundly disappointed by their defeat, we know their leadership will continue to inspire us.”

“Candidates, staff, and volunteers alike went above and beyond in this fight,” said NV Dems Executive Director Matthew Fonken, “In a cycle as critically important as this one, we know this race should never have been as close as it was. The lesson we must learn here is that every vote counts, every constituency matters, and we cannot afford to sideline good, dedicated Democrats over minor differences in policy. We are committed to the work of building a strong, fully-united Democratic Party, knowing that a unified campaign in 2024 and beyond will lead to the Democratic victory that Nevadans deserve.”

“Our work is just beginning,” asserted Chair Whitmer, “we have already started preparing for the 2024 elections and we have no intention of slowing our momentum. We look to the future with optimism and well-earned confidence.”