Still, Laxalt sought to tie Cortez Masto closely to Biden, calling her a “rubber-stamp senator” and framing her relationship with the president as one of “total devotion.” He also painted Democratic policies as bad for Latino-run businesses, seeking to undermine her support with a key constituency in the state, and cast doubt on her moderate bona fides by calling her a “leftist.”
Meanwhile, Laxalt — who, at one point during the campaign, called the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision “a joke” and the Supreme Court decision overturning it “historic” — had to grapple with attacks from Cortez Masto and her Democratic allies as they sought to make abortion a central issue in the campaign. Though most abortions are currently allowed in Nevada, and can only be undone by a statewide ballot vote, Laxalt said he would support a referendum that prohibits abortions after 13 weeks, with exceptions for rape, incest and life of the pregnant person.
Laxalt was also one of the leading Republicans who, in the days after the 2020 election, challenged the legitimacy of Biden’s win and alleged that “illegal votes” were cast in Nevada’s urban Clark County, including by deceased voters. The Republican secretary of state, Barbara Cegavske, found no evidence of fraud in a 2021 review.
Several Nevada Republicans threw their weight behind Cortez Masto in the race, including three former rural county commissioners, a well-known lobbyist and Reno’s chief of police. Fourteen members of Laxalt’s family also came out in support of Cortez Masto.
Both candidates have long political legacies in the state. Cortez Masto is the daughter of Manny Cortez, who served four terms on the Clark County Commission in the ‘70s and ‘80s before going on to lead the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority. Laxalt, while raised in the Washington, D.C. area, is the grandson of former Nevada Gov. and Sen. Paul Laxalt and the son of former New Mexico Sen. Pete Domenici.
The loss represents the second statewide defeat in a row for Laxalt, who lost the Nevada governor’s race by 4 percentage points in 2018.