Opinion: His most dangerous seat in the US Senate. Here’s how he held up

Editor’s note: Sheila Leslie, a long-time Nevada resident, served as a Democrat in the Nevada state legislature for 14 years. He is a columnist for the Reno Gazette-Journal and a retired human services professional. The opinions expressed in this comment are his own. Read more reviews on CNN.


Of all the Democrats in the Senate who were in danger of being swallowed up by a Republican “red wave”, Senator Catherine Cortez Masto was seen as the most vulnerable. And yet, as we all now know, Nevada’s incumbent senator will serve another six years after being declared the presumptive winner this weekend against his Republican challenger.

Cortez Masto’s decisive victory, which they argued was unlikely at best, secured Democratic control of the Senate for the second half of Joe Biden’s presidency.

As a flurry of final voting results from Democratic-leaning Clark County were released Saturday night, Cortez Masto took a decisive lead against Republican Adam Laxalt to deny the election. And when he was declared victorious, progressives breathed a sigh of relief. It’s been years until the country comes to its senses and rejects the lies and misinformation of Trump and his acolytes.

The full story has yet to be written on what enabled Laxalt to win, but if you look at the voting percentages for Cortez Masto from rural Nevada in recent days, they are surprisingly high given the terrible Republican record. there Those critically important rural votes, added to the urban vote, pushed him from top to bottom.

Simply put, Cortez Masto was able to siphon off enough votes from Laxalt, former President Donald Trump’s 2020 Nevada campaign chairman, by going into MAGA-leaning rural areas of his state that he won in urban strongholds like Reno. and Las Vegas.

Nevadans are still adjusting to Covid-era election reforms that offer early voting, universal mail-in ballots, drop boxes and same-day registration. With much of the message counting in the days after the election, Republicans running statewide often see their advantage slowly evaporate. It’s to be expected and explainable, although that doesn’t always make MAGA Republicans careless about claiming election fraud when they lose.

Cortez Masto ran a strong campaign across the Silver State, running a textbook campaign, even garnering the support of high-profile Republicans across the state, who praised his bipartisan leadership, work ethic and integrity. This was in contrast to Laxalt, who was seen by many as a carpetbag Virginian, capitalizing on his grandfather’s stellar reputation in the state.

(Adam Laxalt’s grandfather was former Nevada governor and beloved US senator Paul Laxalt, whose family emigrated from the Basque Country in the 1920s to raise sheep in the northern Nevada desert.)

In addition to outreach to moderate Republicans, Cortez Masto followed a proven campaign playbook, capitalizing on Nevada’s Democratic establishment’s vaunted voting ground game, first honed and perfected by the late Harry Reid. Senate Democratic Majority Leader.

That land play was driven by influential members of the Culinary Union, who allegedly knocked on more than a million doors in a coordinated push to get Cortez Masto past the finish line. He also leaned on abortion rights, an issue of great interest to voters across the political spectrum.

The senator received extensive campaign support from progressive organizations and individual sponsors, including hundreds of volunteers from California who traveled to Nevada, where their time and talents are more politically productive, to provide campaign assistance.

And the week before the election, Third Act, a new national group for people over 60 to work on climate justice and protect democracy, sent its famous founder, climate activist Bill McKibben, to Nevada to meet with hundreds of older Nevadans. He was joined by acclaimed author Rebecca Solnit and Secretary of State candidate Cisco Aguilar at a “Defend Our Democracy” event in Reno.

The event inspired a door-to-door showing of pro-Democracy candidates the next day, and put a bright spotlight on Aguilar, who later won a close contest against a staunch election denier, Jim Marchant. He vowed to “reform the fraudulent election system” in Nevada.

Marchant had a hand in organizing a fake list of “alternative” voters sent to Congress after the 2020 election. He indicated that he would not secure the vote in 2020, and Nevada officials fear that he would not meet election rules in 2024 if Trump is the Republican presidential nominee.

However, Reid’s machine and grassroots efforts were unsuccessful for Governor Steve Sisola. He was denied a second term by Sheriff Joe Lombardo, a Trump-endorsed candidate, who was forced to dismiss Trump’s characterization only as a “sane president” in a debate.

When the former president expressed displeasure with the comment, Lombardo called him the “greatest president” a few days later. Lombardo looked weak and beholden to Trump, but he calmed down the MAGA crowd and kept their support.

Many factors contributed to Sisolak’s failure, some of which were beyond his control, including the global pandemic that devastated Nevada’s tourism industry for months. Sisolak, to his credit, prioritized public health measures and saving lives while absorbing the outrage and anger of Nevadans for protecting residents who valued their freedom to avoid masks.

In coordination with casino officials, he closed the Las Vegas strip for months, overwhelming the state’s unemployment system, which could not keep up with the number of people suddenly unable to work.

Sisolak’s re-election bid faced other challenges: he alienated progressives with vetoes of several Democratic policy bills, including a bill to abolish the death penalty that will certainly not appear under Lombardo’s administration. Progressives likely still voted for him, but with little enthusiasm, complaining about his lack of vision and lack of action on many priority concerns. Some, no doubt, chose the unique Nevada option in their ballots in protest against both candidates.

But aside from Sisola being given a pink slip, it was a good election for Nevada Democrats. They kept three congressional seats and added majorities in the state assembly and state senate, majorities that mean they could limit any drastic budget or policy measures Lombardo wants to enact.

And, importantly, they kept an election denialist out of the important post of Secretary of State. In previous election years, that race would have been a vested interest. But this year, flipping the seat into Democratic hands and keeping the QAnon-affiliated Marchant out of the mix for a Republican challenger was a top priority for many Democratic voters.

The governor-elect will have the opportunity to shape a state government that is now heavily funded. You might be shocked to learn how underpaid the state workforce is and its astronomical vacancy rates.

Now Nevadans will have to wait and see how Lombardo follows through on his mandate to boost the economy by reducing regulations (as if that’s what’s hurting the state). There’s a good reason to watch Nevada’s Republican governors fail to follow through on tired promises to cut back. taxes and ‘waste’ in state government. Lombardo is about to be found.

If our newly elected governor absorbs the national message this election cycle, he will approach his new job with a post-MAGA attitude and work with the Democratic legislature on the pressing issues facing Nevadans.

Voters have shown us that they are tired of political chaos and lack of civility. They want problem solvers, not flames. With mixed election results, Nevada may return to a Democratic rule we were worried we’d never see again.