Senator Catherine Cortez Masto of Nevada on Saturday won election to a second term, according to The Associated Press, securing her party’s hold on the Senate as she survived a challenge from Adam Laxalt, the Republican former attorney general who helped lead former President Donald J. Trump’s effort to overturn the 2020 election results in the state.
For weeks leading up to Election Day, it appeared that control of the Senate could come down to Ms. Cortez Masto’s fate, after a race against Mr. Laxalt that remained tight up until the very end. Republicans had viewed defeating her as a critical piece of their strategy for winning the majority, and she was widely considered the most endangered Democratic incumbent in the nation.
But the red wave that Republicans had hoped would be driven by soaring inflation and President Biden’s sagging approval ratings never materialized, and instead, after days of vote counting, Ms. Cortez Masto prevailed, dashing G.O.P. aspirations of a Senate takeover.
Her victory, paired with a key Democratic hold in Arizona and a flip in Pennsylvania, ensured that the Senate would remain a bulwark for the Biden administration in Congress should Republicans wrest control of the House, which remains up for grabs.
It guaranteed that Democrats would have at least 50 Senate seats in the new Congress, giving them a bare majority by dint of Vice President Kamala Harris’s tiebreaking vote, and will preserve their ability to confirm Mr. Biden’s nominees
The outcome of the sole remaining unresolved Senate race in the nation, the runoff contest on Dec. 6 between Senator Raphael Warnock, a Democrat, and his Republican challenger, Herschel Walker, will determine whether they can expand their majority by an additional seat or if the G.O.P. will hold them to the same 50-50 split that exists now.
Ms. Cortez Masto faced one of the toughest races in the nation. While Republicans pummeled Democrats across the country for soaring inflation, the issue carried an especially biting sting in Nevada, where rent and gas costs have risen faster than almost anywhere else in the country.
Republicans had hoped that the confluence of voters’ persistent economic concerns and Ms. Cortez Masto’s own difficulties establishing a brand for herself would accrue to Mr. Laxalt’s advantage. And they had waxed optimistic that they could erode Democratic support from the state’s sizable Latino electorate.
Mr. Laxalt, after taking a hard right turn during his primary to promote baseless claims of fraud in the 2020 election and lay detailed groundwork to fight election fraud in his own race months before any votes were cast, pivoted as Election Day approached to try to appeal to a broader group of voters. He blamed Ms. Cortez Masto and Democratic policies for the high price of gas in Nevada and told The Las Vegas Review-Journal’s editorial board that there was “no question” Mr. Biden was legitimately elected.
But the Nevada race became yet another this election cycle where voters rejected candidates with close ties to Mr. Trump, who had repeated his lies of a stolen presidential election. The state’s traditional Democratic strongholds — the urban counties anchored by Las Vegas and Reno — rallied to Ms. Cortez Masto’s side so decisively that Mr. Laxalt was unable to prevail even after winning big among rural voters.
Mr. Laxalt indicated on Twitter on Saturday that he might not drag out his own race with claims of fraud, despite his efforts earlier this year to map out a litigation strategy. Hours before the race was called, he acknowledged that Ms. Cortez Masto might “overtake us” and thanked his supporters.
Three incumbent House Democrats in Nevada who also faced difficult races won their re-election contests, dashing Republicans’ prospects of sweeping the state.
Ms. Cortez Masto had sought to portray Mr. Laxalt, whose father and grandfather served in the Senate, as a fortunate son and an extremist. Some of her most aired television advertisements attacking Mr. Laxalt focused on his ties to Mr. Trump and his opposition to abortion rights.
And she played up her own record in the Senate, emphasizing the relief she helped deliver to workers hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic after the state’s hospitality industry was devastated.
Ms. Cortez Masto, a former Nevada attorney general who was elected to the Senate in 2016 by a margin of just two and a half percentage points, was the handpicked successor of Harry Reid, the former Senate majority leader who died last year. He had leaned on his powerful home-state political machine to help turn out the voters who propelled her to victory, and some Democrats anxiously wondered this year whether Ms. Cortez Masto could replicate that performance without Mr. Reid’s organization behind her.
In the closing weeks of her campaign, Ms. Cortez Masto emphasized her personal history, leaning heavily on her identity as a third-generation Mexican American. In a Twitter post circulating an advertisement, she recalled growing up around her grandparents’ kitchen table hearing family stories from her “cousins and tias.”