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Nevada’s close congressional races could determine control of House and Senate

With both the Senate and House majorities hanging in the balance, these four Nevada congressional races will be some of the most influential in the 2022 midterm elections

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Left, Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto, D-Nev., and former Nevada Attorney General Adam Laxalt.

Left, Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto, D-Nev., and former Nevada Attorney General Adam Laxalt.

Associated Press file photos

In the Silver State, where several congressional races have yet to be called, both Republicans and Democrats hope to find a silver lining. 

As of Wednesday morning, the U.S. Senate race in Nevada is still undecided. It remains, as was expected, extremely close, with Republican nominee Adam Laxalt holding a small 2.5 percentage-point lead over his Democratic opponent, incumbent Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto, with just over three-quarters of the votes reported. The three competitive congressional races in the state are also too close to call, with Democrats in the 1st, 3rd, and 4th districts leading by 3 percentage-points or less. 

And with both the Senate and House majorities hanging in the balance after a disappointing night for Republicans, these four Nevada congressional races have become some of the most influential in this year’s midterm elections. 

Nevada’s U.S. Senate race has been one of the closest, and most closely watched, races in the country. As of Wednesday morning, control of the Senate still remained undecided, with Republicans winning 47 Senate seats to Democrats 48. Several races, including Nevada’s, were too close to call. Laxalt has repeatedly said that there is no Republican majority in the Senate without Nevada.

Laxalt, a Nevada native, is the grandson of former Nevada Gov. and Republican U.S. Sen. Paul Laxalt. Trained as an attorney, Laxalt served as a judge advocate general in Iraq and then as a special adviser to the U.S. Department of State before his election to Nevada’s attorney general’s office in 2014, where he replaced the term-limited Cortez Masto. But before Laxalt’s four-year term as AG was completed, he entered Nevada’s 2018 gubernatorial race where he won the Republican primary but lost to Democrat Steve Sisolak 49% to 45%. 

Laxalt’s campaign was built around his tenure as attorney general, touting the endorsement of police organizations and his tough-on-crime approach. The Republican nominee’s campaign has kept its focus on inflation and border security — issues that have affected Nevada as much, or more, than most states. Laxalt has attempted to tie Cortez Masto to Biden, highlighting her party-line voting record even as he tried to frame himself as a consistent conservative

Laxalt’s opponent, the one-term incumbent Cortez Masto, became the first Latina U.S. senator ever after beating her Republican opponent, Joe Heck, by 2.4% in 2016. That is the same margin by which President Joe Biden and Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton won the state. 

Cortez Masto filled a seat left open by the retirement of Democratic Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, whose “get out the vote” resources helped get her elected. Cortez Masto has criticized Laxalt for his support of overturning of Roe v. Wade and has highlighted his role in challenging the 2020 election. Laxalt was co-chair of former President Donald Trump’s Nevada reelection campaign and in the aftermath of the election participated in lawsuits questioning the validity of the state’s results.

The Senate race has broken records for being the most expensive U.S. Senate race in Nevada’s history, with well over $100 million pouring into the state. Nevada’s House races have also garnered significant attention. 

In a high-risk, potentially high-reward gamble the Democrat-controlled Nevada Legislature redrew the solidly-blue 1st Congressional District, dividing up the city of Las Vegas, and theoretically making the 3rd and 4th districts less competitive. But the result of the redistricting was to create two “toss-up” races and a third that wasn’t much safer. And with a “red wave” reduced to a ripple in House races around the country, Nevada’s three competitive congressional districts have the potential to decide which party controls the U.S. House. 

Five-term incumbent Dina Titus, whose 1st District seat is competitive for the first time since she was elected a decade ago, has placed the blame for her tenuous situation directly on the shoulders of the state legislature. She is facing Republican nominee Mark Robertson. 

Nevada’s 3rd Congressional District, where Democratic incumbent Susie Lee is facing off against the Republican nominee April Becker, has received more Super PAC funding than nearly any other House race in the country.

The results in the Silver State might take a few days to roll in, especially if the races end up being as close as the polls predicted. Nevada holds a predominantly mail-in ballot election and ballots have four days to arrive as long as they are postmarked by Election Day.