Nevada Democratic Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto is projected to win her reelection bid, protecting Democratic control of the Senate in 2023 and giving the party a reassuring sign about its prospects in the pivotal swing state.
Cortez Masto defeated Republican nominee Adam Laxalt, who had previously served as the state’s attorney general like her. Laxalt ran a hardline conservative campaign compared to the more low-key centrist effort run by Cortez Masto. The latter became the first-ever Latina to win a Senate seat in 2016 with strong support from former Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.
Democrats are now set to hold at least 50 seats in the Senate next term. Because Vice President Kamala Harris can serve as a tie-breaking vote, Democrats will be in charge of the chamber regardless of the outcome of the final Senate race in 2022, a contest in Georgia that will be decided by a Dec. 6 runoff election.
Despite Laxalt’s support for conspiracy theories about the 2020 presidential election and his own family’s disavowal of him, polls showed him closing in on Cortez Masto for months. With support from national Democrats and Republicans, the candidates and their supporters spent more than $175 million on advertising ― turning the race into Nevada’s most expensive election ever.
Analysts expected Cortez Masto would gain some ground after the Supreme Court revoked Americans’ constitutional right to abortion in June. She highlighted the court’s move in her final months on the campaign trail, pledging to fight to protect reproductive health care and casting her reelection as critical to Democrats’ continued control of the Senate, which has a huge influence over the appointment of judges. Laxalt tried to downplay his years of support for anti-abortion policies.
Nevada has trended Democratic in recent elections, but the state previously had a long history of electing Republicans. The GOP hoped that defeating Cortez-Masto would boost its influence ahead of the 2024 presidential election. A super PAC connected to Republican Senate Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) invested heavily in the race, and former President Donald Trump cheered on Laxalt.
Despite Cortez Masto’s success, the closeness of the contest is a warning sign for Democrats because Nevada is central to most possible scenarios in which a Democrat can win the presidency.