LAS VEGAS — Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto, the first Latina elected to the Senate, will hold onto her seat in Nevada after enduring a bruising campaign against Republican Adam Laxalt, who fell short of ousting the Democrat despite severe midterm headwinds, NBC News projects.
The outcome follows days of protracted mail-in ballot counting, with the results resting largely with the state’s most populous county, Clark County, which posted updates once a day since Tuesday. A race long predicted to be within the margin of error was indeed close through the end.
“Thank you, Nevada!” Cortez Mastro tweeted Saturday evening shortly after NBC News and other outlets projected her win.
Latino voters here helped power the results after both candidates invested heavily in courting them. Latinos were expected to make up 1 in 5 midterm voters, but the NBC News Exit Poll in the state suggests those expectations fell short, with Latinos making up just 12 percent of Nevada voters. Last month, both parties saw signs of a disaffected electorate that threatened to stay home.
The NBC News Exit Poll also showed that those who did turn out stood by her. Despite predictions from her opponent that she’d struggle with Latinos, 62 percent said they voted for Cortez Masto and 33 percent backed Laxalt, according to the NBC News Exit Poll.
Cortez Masto’s campaign leaned heavily on the issue of abortion and vigorously attacked Laxalt in both English and Spanish ads. After the primary, she immediately went on the offensive on rising gas prices, hitting Laxalt on ties to major oil companies, which have enjoyed record profits.
Laxalt tied Cortez Masto to President Joe Biden’s economic policies, blaming them both for rising inflation and gas prices. The issue is especially potent in Nevada, where the average price of a gallon of gas is among the highest in the nation.
At a recent rally in Reno, Laxalt said the voters he talked to were “fed up.”
“This is the most upset electorate we’ve ever experienced in our lifetime,” he said.
Laxalt also sought to tie Cortez Masto to rising crime and what Republicans have said are Biden’s failed border policies — themes that pervaded many Republican campaigns.
In the campaign’s closing days, Laxalt hammered a strict partisan message, vowing not to work with the left and promising to hold Senate hearings examining Biden’s top medical adviser Anthony Fauci and Biden’s son, Hunter.
Cortez Masto, however, sought to woo Republican voters in places like Washoe County, touting her work with people like Iowa Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley. She painted Laxalt as an extremist.
Laxalt, a MAGA loyalist who drew Donald Trump as well as Donald Trump Jr. to the state to stump for him, had questioned the results of the 2020 election, even saying the results were “rigged.”
“There should be consequences for people who undermine our democracy, who peddle the ‘big lie’ and conspiracy theories,” Cortez Masto said at an event in Reno in October.
Laxalt handily won the state’s 15 rural counties, in some counties winning 80 percent of the vote, while Cortez Masto steadily led the reliably blue Clark County, home of Las Vegas.
The two candidates wrestled over Washoe County, a purple county that’s the second largest in the state.