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Cortez Masto defeats Adam Laxalt in US Senate race

Updated November 12, 2022 - 8:00 pm

Democratic incumbent Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto narrowly won her re-election after defeating Republican Adam Laxalt, The Associated Press projected Saturday night.

Her win in the closely watched race ensures Democratic control of the U.S. Senate for the next two years.

Cortez Masto regained her lead Saturday, receiving 48.8 percent of the votes over Laxalt’s 48.1 percent.

When polls closed Tuesday night, Cortez Masto was ahead with early votes and mail ballots that were submitted before Election Day. Once the in-person Election Day votes were tabulated, Laxalt pulled ahead late Tuesday night, but Cortez Masto narrowed that lead over the last few days as counties tabulated mail ballots that were dropped off on Election Day or received in the four days since, with only about 800 votes separating them Friday.

On Saturday, Clark County tabulated the last of the mail-in ballots dropped in drop boxes on Election Day, giving Cortez Masto an additional 14,000 votes. Washoe also updated its numbers Saturday night, giving Cortez Masto an additional 6,000 votes.

“Thank you, Nevada!” Cortez Masto tweeted Saturday evening.

Laxalt’s campaign did not return multiple requests for comment Saturday night.

With Senate control coming down to races in Nevada and Georgia — Georgia has scheduled a runoff election Dec. 6 — all eyes turned to Nevada as results poured in.

Laxalt, who previously said he would accept the results of the election, seemed to stick with that on Saturday and did not hint at concerns of election fraud as of Saturday evening. On Saturday morning, Laxalt tweeted that if Clark’s remaining ballots are Republican precincts or even slightly Democrat-leaning, “then we can still win.”

“If they continue to trend heavy DEM then she will overtake us,” Laxalt said on Twitter.

Trump claims fraud

Despite Laxalt not raising concerns of election fraud, Republican former President Donald Trump, who endorsed both Laxalt and Gov.-elect Joe Lombardo, took to social media to cry foul.

“Now they’re finding all sorts of Ballots in Clark County, Nevada. They are pulling out all stops to steal the Election from Adam Laxalt,” Trump wrote.

As Clark County Registrar of Voters Joe Gloria explained during several days of news conferences, however, Clark County has been counting the mail-in ballots dropped off on Election Day or received from the post office in the days after the election. (Under the law, ballots postmarked by Election Day and received by Saturday were all counted.)

Mail-in ballots expectedly favored Cortez Masto and Democrats in general over Laxalt and Republicans. Democrats urged supporters to vote by mail, while Republicans urged voters to vote on Election Day.

On Twitter, Laxalt repeatedly claimed that mail-in balloting was “shady” and once compared mail-in voting to a take-home exam versus a proctored exam.

Tight race from the start

The Nevada race was tight from the beginning, with the Cook Political Report changing it last year from a ‘lean Democrat’ to a ‘tossup,’ and polls repeatedly showing the candidates within the margin of error.

Republicans and Democrats funneled historic amounts of money into Nevada to draw out voters, and huge amounts were spent. Cortez Masto, who succeeded the late Sen. Harry Reid, raised the fifth-most money out of any U.S. senator, almost $48 million since January 2021 and spending about $45 million. On the flip side, Laxalt raised almost $16 million and spent about $13 million.

Both parties brought out big names, from Donald Trump to Ted Cruz and Tulsi Gabbard for Republicans, and Barack Obama to Bernie Sanders and Pete Buttigieg for Democrats.

Throughout the campaign, Laxalt hit hard on the economy like the high cost of gas and groceries and what he called Democratic overspending in Washington D.C., as well as problems at the southern border, causing crime to increase. He criticized Cortez Masto for often agreeing with President Joe Biden, and acting more liberal while portraying herself as a moderate.

Cortez Masto’s win marks another election loss for Laxalt, who in 2018 lost in the governor’s race to Steve Sisolak by about 40,000 votes. He won the attorney general’s office by a narrow margin in 2014. Members of his own family had discouraged people from voting for him in 2018, and in the U.S. Senate race, they endorsed Cortez Masto.

Cortez Masto, the first Latina in the Senate, focused her attention on making voters aware of the rights that could be at stake if Laxalt were to win, especially abortion rights and LGBTQ rights. Although Laxalt had said he was against a nationwide abortion ban, Cortez Masto brought attention back to his anti-abortion history and anti-LGBTQ rhetoric.

She also criticized Laxalt for his work to challenge the 2020 election results and fronting for the Trump campaign’s lawsuits alleging voter fraud that year. Laxalt, who previously said he may file lawsuits to “tighten up” the election, did not immediately say whether or not he would challenge the results. Both Cortez Masto and Laxalt said previously they would accept the results of Tuesday’s election.

Groups offer congratulations

After her win, groups and individuals congratulated the senator.

“Senator Cortez Masto has been a champion for Nevada families by fighting against special interests and protecting the freedom to vote. We look forward to her continued advocacy and leadership on making government accountable to the people,” said End Citizens United and Let America Vote President Tiffany Muller in a statement.

JB Poersch, the president of the Senate Majority PAC, which invested in more than $42.3 million in paid advertising and communication in the Senate race for Cortez Masto, called Cortez Masto’s victory a “historic feat” in defending Democrats’ Senate majority.

“The last time Senate Democrats successfully defended all our seats as the party in power during a midterm election was sixty years ago, in 1962, and we fully intend to make history once again and expand our majority as we head into the runoff cycle in Georgia,” Poersch said in a statement.

Her partner in the Senate, Sen. Jacky Rosen, D-Nev., also congratulated Cortez Masto on her win.

“Nevada has made history again by re-electing Catherine Cortez Masto as the first and only Latina to serve in the U.S. Senate, and I could not be more thrilled to keep working alongside her to serve the people of our state,” Rosen said in a statement.

“Senator Cortez Masto was counted out and underestimated by the pundits but she ran a strong, robust campaign focused on the issues that matter most for hardworking Nevadans: cutting costs for families, protecting women’s fundamental rights, keeping our communities safe, and protecting our democracy,” Rosen said.

Democratic Gov. Steve Sisolak, who lost his re-election to Republican Joe Lombardo, also congratulated the senator.

“Keep making Nevada proud!” Sisolak said on Twitter Saturday night.

Cortez Masto will speak Sunday morning on her victory, her campaign said in a press release.

Contact Jessica Hill at jehill@reviewjournal.com. Follow @jess_hillyeah on Twitter.

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