Mudslinging begins in the Nevada Senate race with house control at stake

RENO, Nevada – Adam Laxalt’s GOP primary win launched on Wednesday what is set to become one of the most watched, most expensive and possibly the worst Senate races in the country, with results that have implications for the swing in the presidential state of the battlefield in 2024.

Republicans see the fight for the seat of Democratic Senator Catherine Cortez Masto – already declared “high” by the forecasts of the campaign – as one of their best opportunities for retirement in the country. The fate of the breed could ultimately dictate control of the Senate.

Millions of dollars have already been poured into the race – by both parties – with Democrats and allied groups starting their attacks on Laxalt during the primary election. Both campaigns were already active Wednesday morning with attack announcements, with Cortez Masto hitting Laxalt on the links with big oil and the Laxalt campaign blaming the leadership of Cortez Masto for the increase in crime and the dismantling of the border.

This was in addition to Cortez Masto’s campaign attempting to gain a head start in general election messaging, having already spent $ 4 million on TV advertising since April. It will all be in the service of what interviews with more than two dozen Nevada voters, activists, party leaders, and elected officials have suggested are the highest tasks in the field: conquering the state’s rapidly expanding Latino population, even courting the voters in the swing county of Washoe; and political independents who make up about one-third of the state’s registered active voters.

Within minutes of Laxalt’s race call, both sides went into attack mode, accusing each other of being tied to special interests while being out of contact with normal Nevadans.

“Senator Masto did not spend her time in Washington serving the people of Nevada,” Laxalt told about three dozen supporters Tuesday night as he declared victory in his primary run against retired Army captain Sam Brown. “You have worked very hard to serve the progressive left in Washington, DC, spending six years as a rubber stamp for a radical ideology that attacks our values, our culture and the very fabric of our nation.”

Senator Catherine Cortez Masto appears before a hearing of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington on June 8, 2022.Francis Chung / E&E News / POLICY via AP Images file

The Laxalt, backed by Donald Trump, who previously served as the state’s attorney general, waged a campaign heavily focused on supporting the former president and emphasizing his efforts to contest the 2020 election results. But the Democrats did not chase. Laxalt for supporting the so-called “big lie” – the false claim that Joe Biden was not the legitimate winner of the presidential election. Instead, Cortez Masto leaned on new messages that highlighted Laxalt’s ties to big oil, calling him a “corrupt politician” who beat Brown, a little-known underdog, over a last-minute cash infusion. and flashy visits from outside interests.

His campaign says it’s part of a strategy to link Laxalt to a top-of-the-line problem for local voters and one in which Democrats are potentially the most vulnerable: high gas prices and who benefits from it.

JB Poersch, the chairman of the Senate Majority PAC, the Senate’s leading super PAC for Democrats, said Brown’s rebel primary campaign against Laxalt “worked a lot for the Democrats in terms of defining who he is,” and said that the work for the Democrats to do involves linking it to “special interests, particularly linking Laxalt to oil interests.”

As Democrats face a dire political climate, with rising gas prices – which are north of $ 6 a gallon here – rising inflation and a president with ever-higher approval ratings, Cortez Masto is still in the race. with obvious advantages. With no valid opponent in the primary, the senator has for months stepped up her engagement with Latin voters, spending on Spanish-language TV commercials starting in March, according to ad tracking firm AdImpact. She also amassed cash, leaving her with $ 9 million to go to the general election, up from Laxalt’s $ 2 million, according to the latest federal campaign financials.

Overall, the Nevada Democrats have spent Republicans by far to date on Spanish-language TV commercials. Democrats have spent $ 2.7 million in Nevada on such announcements since January 2021 in Tuesday’s primary, according to AdImpact. Republicans of the same measure spent $ 176,000. Most of the spending by either side or their supporting interests has focused on the Senate race. Somos PAC, a Latin advocacy group that is backing Cortez Masto, contributed significantly with negative announcements targeting Laxalt.

Republican state party chairman Michael McDonald said the Nevada party is partnering with the Republican National Senatorial Committee for Operation “Vamos,” which deploys more ground personnel in battlefield states to reach door-to-door Latins. . He has foreseen an advantage for Republicans with the electorate because their concerns are no different from those of other voters, mainly revolving around the economy.

Mike Noble, who conducted independent polls during the Nevada primary, said both parties need to pay close attention to Latins, who can have significant influence in the general election.

“You’re seeing Latinos getting engaged,” she said. “This can be an X factor in general [election]. ”

After voting at Reno High School in Washoe County, Brown issued a warning to Republicans about voter turnout on Tuesday.

Conservatives and others may have stayed on the sidelines, he said, due to the belief that someone else would lead the party.

“It’s incredibly low. He hears a lot about the idea of ​​a red wave. You expected it to be taller, “Brown said.” I think this could be the result of over-pumping the idea of ​​a red wave. ”

Ben Camisar contributed.