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Democrats seal Senate majority as Catherine Cortez Masto wins re-election in Nevada

The Democratic senator is expected to narrowly defeat GOP challenger as control of Congress hangs in balance

Eric Garcia
Sunday 13 November 2022 02:53 GMT
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Democrats look set to hold their Senate majority in Nevada as incumbent Senator Catherine Cortez Masto overtook Republican challenger Adam Laxalt.

Ms Cortez Masto’s expected success comes after Democratic Senators Maggie Hassan of New Hampshire outright won her race on election night and Mark Kelly of Arizona clinched his victory on Friday night.

In addition, John Fetterman flipped Pennsylvania’s open Senate seat in a vicious contest with former TV doctor Mehmet Oz while Senator Raphael Warnock of Georgia will go into a runoff race with former University of Georgia football player Herschel Walker on 6 December.

By far the most endangered incumbent Senator, Ms Cortez Masto’s victory came after mail-in ballots from Clark County, which includes Las Vegas, overwhelmingly favoured her.

Mr Laxalt – a former attorney general for Nevada and the grandson of the late governor Paul Laxalt –notably helped President Donald Trump’s efforts to overturn the state’s presidential election results in 2020. President Joe Biden won the state with more than 50 per cent of the vote that year.

Ms Cortez Masto, herself a former attorney general, first won the seat in 2016 and became the first and so far only Latina senator in US history.

The race received less international press attention compared to Senate races in other battleground states Pennsylvania, Arizona or Georgia, but it was ranked among the tightest in the country, with polls showing the two candidates running neck and neck throughout.

Republicans targeted Nevada as their best chance to flip a Senate seat after the Covid-19 pandemic devastated the state’s gaming industry. Similarly, Democratic Governor Steve Sisolak, who won his first race in 2018 against Mr Laxalt, was on track to lose his race for re-election to Republican Sheriff Joe Lombardo.

The state is home to a large working-class Latino population that works in the hospitality industry, which lost more than three million jobs within the pandemic’s first year. Both Republicans and Democrats conducted aggressive Spanish outreach through television advertisements. Ms Cortez Masto’s victory reflects the party’s fighting chance with Latino voters as Republicans have started to peel them off and Democrats work to stave off an exodus of non-college-educated Latino voters.

Democratic candidates also zeroed-in on abortion rights in the wake of the US Supreme Court’s decision to strike down a constitutional right to care.

The state’s culinary union had long focused on voter turnout and was considered part of the notorious “Reid Machine” led by the late Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid that mobilized Democratic voters. Mr Reid retired in 2017 and Ms Cortez Masto succeeded him before his death in 2021.

The race also became a magnet for countless surrogates, including former presidents Bill Clinton, Barack Obama and Donald Trump, as well as Senators Ted Cruz, Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders, who won the Nevada presidential caucus in 2020.

If confirmed, the victory means Georgia’s runoff in December won’t be needed for Democrats to control the upper chamber because a 50-50 balance means Vice President Kamala Harris can continue to provide a casting vote – but if they do win the Peach State, they would take a 51-49 advantage over Republicans.

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