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Why AP called Nevada Senate race for Catherine Cortez Masto

The Associated Press called the Nevada Senate race for Democrat Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto on Saturday after a batch of votes from the Las Vegas area gave her a 5,000-vote lead that the AP determined she would not relinquish.

The win for Cortez Masto also meant Democrats would keep control of the Senate.

The AP concluded Cortez Masto’s lead would carry even if Republican Adam Laxalt made gains in rural Nevada counties that are still counting votes.

Her victory allows the Democrats to retain control the Senate with at least 50 seats because of Vice President Kamala Harris’ tiebreaking vote even without a victory in the Georgia runoff in December.

Cortez Masto benefited in mail ballot counting since Election Day, winning in Clark County, which accounts for three-quarters of Nevada’s population. Laxalt saw his lead of some 19,000 votes after election night dwindle to nearly 900 on Saturday before the latest counted votes were added to the tally.

The AP determined Cortez Masto’s lead would carry through additional updates in Reno’s Washoe County as well as among provisional and “cured” ballots, or those with signature or date issues. Later on Saturday, Cortez Masto carried a batch of more than 10,000 ballots from Washoe by 56% to 40% and her lead grew to more than 6,500 votes.


Nevadans tend to vote early.

In elections from 2014 to 2018, more than half the total vote came from people who voted early in person or delivered absentee ballots.

Those categories accounted for nearly 90% of the vote in 2020′s presidential election.

The counties to watch are Clark (anchored by Las Vegas) and Washoe (which includes Reno). If the margin is large in Clark, and the winning candidate is also winning Washoe, it becomes tough for the trailing candidate to pick up enough votes to catch the leader, even if they do well in the remaining rural counties.

In a tweet Saturday, Laxalt acknowledged that Cortez Masto was performing better than Republicans expected in Clark County ballots counted over the past few days.

Here’s how the vote unfolded, starting with the most recent information:


—CLARK: Officials late Saturday released tallies from a batch of some 23,000 votes, which Cortez Masto won 61% to 36% for Laxalt. The batch put her in the lead by about 5,000 votes.

—WASHOE: In a batch of more than 10,000 votes late Saturday, the senator won 56% while Laxalt captured 40%.


—CLARK: The county tallies about 27,000 votes, over 63% of which go to Cortez Masto to Laxalt’s 33%. By Friday, Laxalt’s lead shrinks to more than 800 votes, down from a gap of over 8,000 votes statewide.

—WASHOE: Officials report nearly 11,000 votes counted, with the senator carrying about 54% of them to 43% for Laxalt.


—CLARK: About 12,000 votes are tallied Thursday, breaking roughly 62%-35% for Cortez Masto. Laxalt’s overall statewide lead at this point is about 8,000 votes.

—WASHOE: Nearly 40,000 votes get counted on Thursday in Washoe. They go overwhelmingly for Cortez Masto, 61% to 36%.


—CLARK: Officials count some 600,000 ballots, which tilt narrowly for Cortez Masto. She wins about 52% of them to Laxalt’s 46%. By the end of the day, his lead is more than 19,000 votes.

—WASHOE: Of the 130,000 ballots counted, Laxalt is the choice of over half the voters, while Cortez Masto carries 47%.


Mike Catalini can be reached at


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