Senate control may come down to Nevada as count nears end

Las Vegas (from) – Control of the US Senate may come down to Nevada, where the slow ballot count enters its final act Saturday in a nail-biter contest between Democratic Senator Catherine Cortez Masto and Republican challenger Adam Laxalt.

Saturday is the last day that ballots can arrive and be counted under the state’s new election law. Election officials rushed through piles of tens of thousands of ballots to determine the winner of the race.

The Nevada race took on even more importance after Democratic Senator Mark Kelly was declared the winner his reelection campaign in Arizona on Friday night, giving his party 49 seats in the chamber. The Republic also has 49.

If Cortez Masto wins, Democrats will maintain their control of the Senate given Vice President Kamala Harris’ tiebreaking vote. If Laxalt wins, the Georgia Senate runoff next month will determine which party has a single-vote Senate edge.

Cortez Masto was only a few hundred votes behind Laxalt, with most of the uncounted ballots remaining in heavily Democratic Clark County, which includes Las Vegas. Democrats believe those votes will put their candidate in the lead.

Laxalt has said he hopes to maintain his advantage and be declared the winner. But on Saturday he admitted in a tweet that the calculus had changed because Cortez Masto had done better than Republicans expected in Clark County ballots counted over the past few days.

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“This has narrowed our window of victory,” he tweeted, acknowledging that the race was down to a final Clark election.

“If they are GOP territory or lean slightly DEM then we can still win,” Laxalt tweeted. “If they continue the heavy DEM trend then he will overtake us.”

If the race remains close enough to call after Saturday, several thousand more ballots could be added to the tally early next week. Mail ballots with clerical errors can be “cured” by voters until the end of Monday, then added to the total. And several thousand provisional ballots also remain, votes that election officials must double-check to be valid by Tuesday before they can be counted.

“We know that this is a serious count. There are people nationally looking for these results,” Joe Gloria, registrar in Clark County, said in a press conference on Saturday. “We know that people need to see the count. We will not delay any longer. “

Gloria said all the remaining 22,000-plus votes would be tabulated by Saturday evening. There are also 7,100 votes for “kapok” and 5,555 temporary ballots. Clark County accounts for three-quarters of Nevada’s population.

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Gloria said it took several cycles to adjust the ballot counting to the all-mail system Nevada adopted during the 2020 pandemic. She also said state law requires her to receive ballots by Saturday. “We couldn’t have done it earlier, even if we wanted to,” Gloria said.

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

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

Roughly three-fourths of Nevada voters say the state is headed in the wrong direction, and about 5 in 10 call the economy the most important issue facing the state, according to AP VoteCast, a survey of 2,100 state voters.

Voters view the economy negatively, with VoteCast finding nearly 8 in 10 say the state of the economy is neither good nor bad. Only about 2 in 10 called the economy excellent or good. And about a third of voters said their families are financially behind.

But that doesn’t necessarily translate into anger at President Joe Biden or his party. About half think inflation is the most important problem facing the U.S., but they are evenly split on whether they think prices are higher because of Biden’s policies or factors beyond their control.

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According to VoteCast, 7 in 10 voters in Nevada want abortion to remain legal in all or most cases, and Cortez Masto and other Democrats have made the right a centerpiece of their campaign.

Republicans, however, relentlessly hammered the economic argument, contending it is time for a change of leadership. They’re also looking to capitalize on lingering frustrations about a pandemic-destroying economy centered on Las Vegas in 2020.

On Thursday morning, The Associated Press declared Republican Stavros Anthony the winner in the lieutenant governor race, while Republican Andy Mathews was elected state controller.

The state’s lone Republican congressman, Mark Amodei, easily won re-election in a largely rural district in northern Nevada. Three Democratic Las Vegas-area House members 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 at play in the midterms.

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