April Corbin Girnus, Nevada Current
In a nailbiter watched all over the country, Nevada Democratic Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto prevailed over challenger Republican Adam Laxalt and secured Democratic control of the U.S. Senate in the process.
Cortez Masto was considered by many to be one of the most vulnerable U.S. senators up for reelection this year, and polls throughout the election cycle characterized the race as a toss up. When the race was called Saturday, Cortez Masto led Laxalt by half a percentage point, or roughly 5,000 votes with uncounted votes from the state’s two urban centers expected to break in her favor.
The call came after a mail ballot vote drop from Clark County, Nevada’s most populous county. The Cortez Masto campaign announced she will speak about the “historic victory” Sunday morning.
The Nevada race was of one of two races that had not been decided as of Friday, and that would decide control of the U.S. Senate, the other being Georgia. Each is currently held by Democrats, and Democrats had to retain one of them or lose control of the Senate to Republicans.
Democratic incumbent Sen. Mark Kelly was declared the winner in Arizona. That victory, combined with a Cortez Masto win in Nevada, assured that Democrats would retain at least 50 seats in the Senate – enough to control with tie-breaking votes cast by Democratic Vice President Kamala Harris. Democrats have a chance to add an additional seat in Georgia’s upcoming Dec. 6 runoff between Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock and Republican challenger Herschel Walker.
Cortez Masto’s win is part of a mixed bag of outcomes for Democrats in the Silver State. Voters rejected Democratic incumbent Gov. Steve Sisolak and elected Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo to the office. But they backed Democrats in the secretary of state, attorney general and treasurer races, as well as in three competitive House seats held by incumbent Democrats.
The outcome also marks the second high-profile loss for Laxalt, who unsuccessfully ran for governor against Steve Sisolak in 2018.
Laxalt is the Reno-born, Virginia-raised grandson of a former Nevada senator. He served one term as Nevada attorney general when he was elected in 2014 as part of a massive statewide red wave. In 2020, he was state co-chair of President Donald Trump’s reelection campaign. In that role he pedaled unfounded voter fraud conspiracy theories and filed lawsuits that were thrown out in court.
Laxalt on his Senate campaign trail made comments about working on a “litigation strategy” and “filing lawsuits early.” Friday afternoon, following a Daily Mail report that the Laxalt campaign was preparing for defeat, Laxalt tweeted that the article was “totally and completely false.” By Friday night, he had acknowledged on the social media site that the window for victory was narrowing.
On the campaign trail, Cortez Masto attacked Laxalt for stance against abortion rights and his connections to “the Big Lie,” political extremism and big oil. On his end, Laxalt hammered Cortez Masto on economic issues, specifically inflation, and tied the first-term senator to President Joe Biden.
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