Democratic Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto won a second-term election representing Nevada on Saturday, defeating Republican Adam Laxalt to gain party control of the House 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 lead 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’ control of the Senate is a blow to Republicans’ high hopes of wresting control of Congress in a midterm election that normally favors the out-of-power party. It was still unclear which party would control the House of Representatives as the count continued in closely fought races in California and a few other states.
Cortez Masto, the first Latina in the Senate, was considered the most vulnerable Democratic senator in the midterms, and the GOP had high hopes of winning the seat. But despite an influx of spending on attack ads from national Republican groups, Cortez Masto managed to secure her re-election bid.
Nevada’s vote count took several days in part because of the vote-by-mail system created by the state Legislature in 2020 that requires counties to accept ballots postmarked on Election Day if they arrive within four days. Laxalt had an early lead that diminished after late counted ballots arrived from the state’s population centers in Las Vegas and Reno.
Cortez Masto, a two-term former state attorney general, focused his Senate campaign on the growing threat to abortion access across the country and worked to court the state’s Spanish-speaking residents and hourly wage earners, highlighting his support for a permanent pathway to citizenship for “Dreamers” and regular visits to unions and worker groups.
His fundraising far exceeded that of Laxalt. He 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.
Laxalt, a former Nevada attorney general who ran unsuccessfully for governor in 2018, focused on rising inflation and a struggling economy for much of his campaign, trying to link voter financial woes to political pushed by Democrats in Congress and Biden.
Former President Donald Trump, who twice lost Nevada in his White House races, visited the state twice to support Laxalt and other Republican candidates.
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 both with inflation and aftershocks from the shutdown of Las Vegas’ tourist economy during the pandemic. COVID-19.
About three-quarters of Nevada voters said the country is headed in the wrong direction, and about 5 in 10 said the economy is the most important problem facing the country, according to AP VoteCast, a poll of 2,100 voters from the condition.
Voters viewed the economy negatively, and VoteCast found that nearly 8 in 10 said economic conditions are not that good or bad. Only about 2 in 10 rated the economy as excellent or good. And about a third of voters said their families are falling behind financially.
But that didn’t necessarily translate to anger at President Joe Biden or his party. About half considered inflation to be the most important problem facing the US, but they were evenly split on whether they believe the higher prices are due to Biden’s policies or factors outside of his control.
Nevada is also a state famous for living and letting live, and Cortez Masto’s message about preserving abortion rights resonated. According to VoteCast, 7 out of 10 wanted the procedure to remain legal in all or most cases.