Cortez Masto, Laxalt race may decide Senate control

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The nation’s eyes will be on Nevada in November as voters decide whether to retain incumbent U.S. Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto, the most endangered Democrat in the upper chamber of Congress.

At stake could be the balance of power in the Senate, now split 50-50 and controlled by the Democrats, thanks to the tie-breaking vote of Vice President Kamala Harris. The net loss of a single seat would give Republicans a majority.

Cortez Masto is up against former Nevada Attorney General Adam Laxalt in a race identified by the Republican Party as their best chance to flip.

The two are even in polling. In an October USA TODAY/Suffolk University survey of 500 likely midterm voters, Cortez Masto held the smallest of leads over Laxalt, 46%-44%.

USA TODAY/Suffolk Poll:: Endangered Democrat in Nevada Senate race sees her lead shrink

Laxalt has pushed inflation and the economy — the top issue for 43% of likely voters in Nevada — to the forefront of his platform, placing the blame on Cortez Masto and President Joe Biden. 

Cortez Masto has made reproductive health care central to her re-election platform following the U.S. Supreme Court’s reversal of Roe v. Wade and erasure of the constitutional right to an abortion.

One in four voters cite abortion as their top issue, according to the USA TODAY/Suffolk Poll.

Asked how much impact abortion views would have on their choice of a candidate in November, using a scale of 1 to 10, 40% of those surveyed chose 10 – the most powerful possible impact. 

Keep reading to learn more about Nevada’s incumbent Democratic senator and her Republican challenger.

Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto

After serving two terms as Nevada’s attorney general, Cortez Masto, 58, was elected in 2016 to the U.S. Senate, becoming the nation’s first Latina senator. She has earned support in her bid for re-election from Republicans across the state as well as more than a dozen relatives of her GOP rival Adam Laxalt.

Years lived in Nevada: Basically my whole life

Education: University of Nevada, Reno — Bachelor of Science in Finance (go Pack, go!); Gonzaga University School of Law — Juris Doctor

Previous offices held: Nevada Attorney General, 2007-2015

Social media: Twitter | Facebook | Instagram

Campaign website: catherinecortezmasto.com

Key endorsements: Planned Parenthood Action Fund; League of Conservation Voters; Sierra Club, Toiyabe Chapter; American Israel Public Affairs Committee; AAPI Victory Fund; Care In Action PAC; EMILY’s List; End Citizens United; Human Rights Campaign; International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees Local 720; Latino Victory Fund; National Wildlife Federation; Nevada Association of Public Safety Officers; Nevada Law Enforcement Coalition; Nevada American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations

If you are in office for the vote, would you support Sen. Lindsey Graham’s legislation outlawing abortions nationwide after 15 weeks? Why or why not?

Absolutely not. I stand with the vast majority of Nevadans who believe the government shouldn’t tell women what to do with their own bodies, and I have always fought to uphold a woman’s right to choose. Lindsey Graham’s national abortion ban would take away that right, and I immediately fought back against it. I support federal legislation protecting a woman’s reproductive rights, just as we have done in our state. 

My opponent, Adam Laxalt, has worked to roll back women’s rights throughout his career, making it clear where he stands on this issue. He called Roe v. Wade “a joke,” said the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe a “historic victory,” and said it’s “sad” that Nevada is a pro-choice state.

Do you support a path to citizenship for young immigrants brought to the U.S. as children, commonly referred to as Dreamers? Please elaborate.

I’m delivering billions of dollars in funding for border security so they can keep our communities safe, and I am currently leading bipartisan legislation to make essential fixes to our broken immigration system. DREAMers are our veterans, law enforcement, nurses – people whose parents brought them here when they were children, and the United States is the only country they’ve ever known. We must protect them. I have consistently fought to create a pathway to citizenship for DREAMers and to protect DACA. 

Adam Laxalt has a history of standing against DREAMers and has proudly touted the work he did as attorney general to block protections for DACA recipients. 

Should the federal government have a role in preventing gun violence? Why or why not? What policies, if any, do you support to reduce gun violence?

My husband, Paul, is a retired Secret Service agent, and he and I are proud gun owners. I agree with law enforcement officials and crime experts who say red flag laws will help save lives – if a woman’s husband or boyfriend is harming her, there should be due process in place to make sure her abuser doesn’t have access to a gun. I also support comprehensive background checks. Nevada is a state with responsible gun owners – and we can, and must, respect the Second Amendment while protecting our communities with commonsense measures.

During your first term, how many pieces of your sponsored legislation were ultimately signed into law, and which had the greatest impact on Nevadans? Please elaborate.

The people of Nevada are my top priority, and I’ve passed dozens of bills that reflect our state’s needs and have been signed by President Biden and President Trump. These measures make a difference in Nevada by promoting clean energy jobs, providing local law enforcement officers with resources for training and equipment, and combating human trafficking.

If you are reelected to a Senate that shifts to Republican control, how will you work with members of the other party to pass legislation?

My job is to deliver for Nevadans, and I have consistently worked with my Republican colleagues to get the job done – regardless of which party is in the majority

As Nevada’s attorney general, I worked closely with our Republican governor to combat human trafficking in our state and keep Nevadans safe, and I’ve taken that same approach in the Senate. Even in a divided Senate, I have worked across the aisle to rescue our state’s economy during the pandemic, to support our law enforcement, and to reduce the cost of solar and create new clean energy jobs.

In a Suffolk University/RGJ poll of 500 likely Nevada voters, about 40% said their standard of living is worse now than it was four years ago. Looking back on your first term, what measures/regulations did you support to help bolster the Silver State’s economy? And what more could you do if you are retained by voters?

My focus is creating jobs, lowering costs, and giving Nevadans a break.

I have passed major legislation to invest in solar energy and create clean energy jobs in Nevada, strengthen American manufacturing, and bring jobs home from overseas. There are thousands of jobs coming to our state through our bipartisan infrastructure law, which will fix our roads and bridges, expand broadband, and combat our wildfire crisis.

I will continue leading efforts to hold Big Oil companies accountable for rising gas costs, bring down prescription drug prices, and help build more middle-class housing in Nevada.

Adam Laxalt

Laxalt, 43, served a single term as Nevada’s attorney general between 2015 and 2019. After an unsuccessful 2018 run for the governor’s mansion, Laxalt burst back onto the political scene when he co-chaired President Donald Trump’s 2020 re-election campaign in Nevada. Now, Laxalt is running his first-ever U.S. Senate campaign as a Trump-backed candidate.

Years lived in Nevada: Born in 1978 in Reno (Editor’s note: Laxalt was raised in Alexandria, Virginia, and moved back to Nevada in 2011)

Occupation: Attorney

Education: Bachelor of Arts and Juris Doctor, Georgetown University

Social media: Twitter | Facebook | Instagram

Campaign website: AdamLaxalt.com

Key endorsements: 

  • Organizations: Nevada Fraternal Order of the Police (Nevada FOP); Associated Builders & Contractors – Nevada (ABC Nevada); Power2Parent Action; Nevada Petroleum Markets & Convenience Store Association (NPM&CSA); AAPI Nevada Leadership Council; VegasDesi.com; National Association of Police Organizations (NAPO); National Border Patrol Council (NBPC); National Right to Work Committee; National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB); International Franchise Association (IFA); Oil & Gas Workers Association (OGWA); National Rifle Association (NRA); Gun Owners of America (GOA); National Right to Life; Club for Growth; FreedomWorks for America; Republican Jewish Coalition (RJC); 60 Plus Association; Black Conservative Federation (BCF); Log Cabin Republicans; and Maverick PAC
  • Conservative Leaders: President Donald Trump; Governor Ron DeSantis (FL); Governor Kristi Noem (SD); Senator Ted Cruz (TX); Senator Tom Cotton (AR); Senator Josh Hawley (MO); Senator Mike Lee (UT); Senator Marsha Blackburn (TN); Senator Rick Scott (FL); Senator Tim Scott (SC); Senator John Cornyn (TX); Senator Marco Rubio (FL); Senator Joni Ernst (IA); Senator Dr. Roger Marshall (KS); Senator Cynthia Lummis (WY); Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith (MS); Congressman Markwayne Mullin (OK); Donald Trump Jr.; Former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo; Former Secretary of Energy & Governor of Texas Rick Perry; Former Ambassador to the United Nations & Governor of South Carolina Nikki Haley; Former National Security Advisor & Ambassador Robert C. O’Brien; Former Acting Director of National Security & Ambassador Richard Grenell; Former Senior Councilor to the President Kellyanne Conway; Former Acting Attorney General Matt Whitaker; Former Chief of Staff to the Department of Defense Kash Patel; and Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes

If you are in office for the vote, would you support Sen. Lindsey Graham’s legislation outlawing abortions nationwide after 15 weeks? Why or why not?

I have already outlined my position on abortion in an op/ed published in your newspaper.

Do you support a path to citizenship for young immigrants brought to the U.S. as children, commonly referred to as Dreamers? Please elaborate.

Nevadans do not trust Washington DC to reform immigration laws until we stop the flow of illegal crossing at our southern border. My opponent said the border is not open. She’s wrong. Border patrol has seen over 4M encounters since Biden took office. Once our border is under control, we need an efficient, merit-based immigration system that works. But none of that is possible if there is no incentive to comply with our rules. 

Should the federal government have a role in preventing gun violence? Why or why not? What policies, if any, do you support to reduce gun violence? 

I’m a strong defender of our civil rights, including our 2nd Amendment, just as I have been a strong supporter of law and order, hardening our schools to make them safer, and more investments in mental health.  

If elected, what key issues would you prioritize, and how do plan to address those issues?

Joe Biden and Catherine Cortez Masto are taking our country in the wrong direction. Prices on gasoline, groceries and everything else are soaring. I’ll fight to stop the reckless spending causing record inflation, and I’ll work to remove leftist limitations on American energy resources that increase prices at the pump. Crime is out of control in our states and along our border. I’ll stop the onerous attempts to defund our police and fight to ensure our border is actually secure. 

In a Suffolk University/RGJ poll of 500 likely Nevada voters, about 40% said their standard of living is worse now than it was four years ago. What measures/regulations would you support to bolster the Silver State’s economy?

I hear nearly every day from Nevadans struggling under this economy. It’s worse here than almost every other state. Inflation was 8.5% nationally in April, but 10.4% in the Mountain West region according to the Bureau of Labor statistics. Nevada gas prices are a full dollar higher than the national average, according to AAA. Nevada’s unemployment rate is higher than nearly every other state. Many Nevada families continue to struggle because of government-mandated economic shutdowns during the pandemic. I will fight to reduce energy prices by using American energy resources, and I’ll pursue tax incentives for small businesses who struggled under COVID while giant corporations flourished. I’ll oppose the government mandates that hurt Nevada families, and I’ll oppose the runaway deficit spending that’s driving inflation. 

Why should voters from different parties vote for you?

The pain caused by inflation, gas prices and mandates affects everybody. This is why Nevadans from both parties are extremely unhappy with the direction this country is headed. Senator Catherine Cortez Masto is making these problems worse. I cleaned up after Masto as her successor in the Nevada Attorney General’s office, and I will do so again as her successor in the U.S. Senate. She voted to slow domestic energy production, I will vote to empower it. She supported mandates that made people choose between their beliefs and their jobs, I will protect working Americans from government overreach. She voted for trillions in reckless deficit spending, I will oppose it.

Rio Lacanlale is the Las Vegas correspondent for the Reno Gazette Journal and the USA Today Network. Contact her at rlacanlale@gannett.com or on Twitter @riolacanlale. Support local journalism by subscribing to the RGJ today.

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