Control of the Senate may fall to Nevada as the count draws to a close

Control of the U.S. Senate may fall in Nevada, where a slow ballot count entered its final act Saturday in a bitter contest between Democratic Sen. Kathryn Cortez Masto and Republican challenger Adam Laxalt.

Saturday is the last day mail-in ballots can arrive and be counted under the state’s new election law. Election officials are rushing through a backlog of tens of thousands of ballots to determine the winner of the race.

The Nevada race took on added significance after Democratic Sen. Mark Kelly was declared the winner of his re-election campaign in Arizona on Friday night, giving his party 49 seats in the chamber. Republicans also have 49.

If Cortez Masto wins, Democrats will retain control of the Senate, given Vice President Kamala Harris’ tie-breaking vote. If Laxalt wins, Georgia’s Senate runoff next month will determine which party holds the one-vote Senate advantage.

Cortez Masto was only a few hundred votes behind Laxalt, with most of the remaining uncounted ballots in Democratic Clark County, which includes Las Vegas. Democrats were confident that these ballots would put their candidate in the lead. Laxalt said he expects to maintain his advantage and be declared the winner.

If the race remains too close to call after Saturday, a few thousand more ballots could be added to the totals early next week. Postal ballots with clerical errors can be “cured” by voters until the end of the day on Monday and then added to the totals. And a few thousand provisional ballots also remain, votes that election officials must double-check are legally countable until Tuesday before they are counted.

“We’re doing everything we can to get the ballots moving as quickly as we can,” Clark County Clerk Joe Gloria said Friday.

An estimated 23,000 ballots remain to be counted in the county. Gloria said there were also 9,600 ballots being “cured” and 5,555 provisional ballots. Clark County accounts for three-quarters of Nevada’s population.

In another key race, Democratic Gov. Steve Sisolak lost his re-election bid to Republican challenger Sheriff Joe Lombardo on Friday night.

Nevada, a closely divided swing state, is one of the most racially divided in the nation, a working-class state whose residents have been hit particularly hard by inflation and other economic turmoil.

About three-quarters of Nevada voters said the country is headed in the wrong direction, and about 5 in 10 named the economy the most important issue facing the country, according to AP VoteCast, a survey of 2,100 state voters.

Voters viewed the economy negatively, with VoteCast finding nearly 8 in 10 saying economic conditions are either not so good or bad. Only about 2 in 10 called the economy excellent or good. And about a third of voters said their families are falling behind financially.

But that hasn’t necessarily translated into anger for President Joe Biden or his party. About half saw inflation as the most important issue facing the U.S., but were evenly split on whether they thought higher prices were due to Biden’s policies or factors outside of his control.

Nevada is also a famously live-and-let-live state, and Cortez Masto and other Democrats have made preserving abortion rights a centerpiece of their campaigns. According to VoteCast, 7 in 10 wanted the process to remain legal in all or most cases.

Republicans, however, relentlessly dismissed the economic argument, arguing that it was time for a change in leadership. They also sought to capitalize on lingering frustrations over pandemic shutdowns that devastated Las Vegas’ tourism-centric economy in 2020.

On Thursday morning, the Associated Press declared Republican Stavros Anthony the winner of the lieutenant governor race, while Republican Andy Matthews was elected state comptroller.

The state’s lone Republican Rep. Mark Amodei easily won re-election in his mostly rural district in northern Nevada. The three Democratic House members in the Las Vegas area of ​​the state were also re-elected.

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Associated Press writer Scott Sonner in Las Vegas contributed to this report.

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Follow AP’s coverage of the 2022 midterm elections at https://apnews.com/hub/2022-midterm-elections. And check out https://apnews.com/hub/explaining-the-elections to learn more about the issues and factors playing out in the midterms.

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