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Cortez Masto wins in Nevada, securing Democratic control of Senate

Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.)
Greg Nash
Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.) addresses reporters before the weekly Senate Democratic policy luncheon on Tuesday, September 13, 2022.

Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.) is projected to defeat Republican Adam Laxalt, putting an end to a nail-biter of a race and ensuring Democrats will maintain their Senate majority.

NBC News and CBS News both called the race around 9:18 pm. ET.

Cortez Masto, the nation’s first Latina senator who won her election in 2016 by just over 2 points, fended off a competitive bid from Laxalt, the former state attorney general, who was endorsed by former President Trump. The Silver State was considered one of Republicans’ best pickup opportunities in the Senate, especially as a slew of polls showed Laxalt and Cortez Masto polling within the margin of error.

Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.)

Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.) emerged victorious in what was considered one of Republicans’ best pickup opportunities in the Senate. (Greg Nash)

During the election, Laxalt leaned into issues like inflation, crime and border security while Cortez Masto had leaned into abortion and slammed the Republican for his dubious comments about the 2020 election, among other issues.

But Nevada is known for its uncomfortably close elections. Both Hillary Clinton in 2016 and President Biden in 2020 won the state by 2.4 percentage points. Part of why Nevada politics are so unpredictable comes from the fact that the state’s population is transient, given its tourism and hospitality industry, meaning politicians have to reintroduce themselves to voters every few years.

During his campaign against Cortez Masto, Adam Laxalt leaned into issues like inflation, crime and border security that Republicans across the country have been making a focus. (Associated Press)

And this election year — which already saw headwinds for Democrats at the national level — was an especially tricky one for the incumbent’s party given how residents and businesses are still reeling from the effects of COVID-19 on their economy.

Added to injury was the death of former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), known for his impressive Democratic voter outreach infrastructure in the state, dubbed the “Reid Machine.” Political observers were uncertain how well the rest of that operation would hold given the death of its standard-bearer. 

So it came as something of a shock to many Democrats that the party did so well in Nevada this cycle. Not only did Cortez Masto win reelection, but the three House Democratic incumbents up for reelection all won their districts as well, while a Democrat also won the secretary of state race over a Trump-aligned election denier.

There was one notable Democratic casualty in Nevada: Gov. Steve Sisolak (D) lost his reelection bid against Republican Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo. Still, Democrats are celebrating that an anticipated “red wave” never emerged in the Silver State.

With control of the upper chamber locked down, Democrats are now looking to Georgia, which will hold a Senate runoff on Dec. 6 between Sen. Raphael Warnock (D) and Herschel Walker (R) and could ensure that the party expands its majority.

Tags 2022 midterms Senate Adam Laxalt Adam Laxalt Catherine Cortez Masto Joe Biden Nevada senate race Steve Sisolak

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