Cortez Masto wins in Nevada, giving Democrats Senate control

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 during the next two years of Joe Biden’s presidency.

With the victory of Democratic Senator Mark Kelly in Arizona as of 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 is playing out, by virtue of the vote of Vice President Kamala Harris.

The Democrats’ hold on the Senate is a blow to Republicans’ high hopes of wresting 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 close races in California and a host of other states.

Cortez Masto, the first Latina in the Senate, was considered the most vulnerable Democratic senator in the midterm elections, and the Republican Party had great hopes of overturning the seat. But despite an influx of attack ad spending from national GOP groups, Cortez Masto managed to secure her re-election bid.

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Nevada’s vote count took several days in part because of the mail ballot system created by the state Legislature in 2020, which requires counties to accept ballots postmarked before Election Day if they arrive up to four days later. Laxalt had an early lead that dwindled after late-count 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 growing threat to abortion access nationwide and worked to woo the state’s Spanish-speaking residents and hourly wage earners, underscoring her support of a permanent path to citizenship for “ Dreamers” and regularly visiting union halls and labor groups.

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

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

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

Democrats had a difficult battle based on the turbulent economy of the nation, and Nevada exemplified the challenges of the party. 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’ tourism economy during the COVID-19 pandemic.

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

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Voters viewed the economy negatively, with VoteCast finding nearly 8 in 10 saying economic conditions are either not so good or bad. 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 hasn’t necessarily translated into anger at President Joe Biden or his party. About half considered inflation the most important issue facing the United States, but they were evenly split on whether they thought higher prices were due to Biden’s policies or factors beyond his control.

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

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Associated Press writer Scott Sonner in Las Vegas contributed to this report.

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Follow AP’s coverage of the 2022 midterm elections at https://apnews.com/hub/2022-midterm-elections. And check out https://apnews.com/hub/explaining-the-elections to learn more about the issues and factors at play in the midterms.

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