Following a tight race, incumbent Democratic Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto has defeated Republican challenger Adam Laxalt to win reelection, CBS News projects. The projected win means that Democrats will retain control of the Senate, regardless of the outcome of the Georgia runoff between Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock and Republican Herschel Walker in December.
On Saturday, Cortez Mastro overtook Laxalt with a margin of just under 5,000 votes, with 96% of the results in, a margin of 0.5 percentage points.
Laxalt had been clinging to a small lead of under 1,000 votes going into Saturday. He had released a statement on Saturday morning which suggested he has some expectation she would surpass him.
"Here is where we are — we are up only 862 votes. Multiple days in a row, the mostly mail in ballots counted continue to break in higher DEM margins than we calculated. This has narrowed our victory window. The race will come down to 20-30K Election Day Clark drop off ballots," Laxalt said.
"If they are GOP precincts or slightly DEM leaning then we can still win," he continued. "If they continue to trend heavy DEM then she will overtake us."
On Tuesday, a week after Election Day, Laxalt conceded the race and said he would not challenge the election.
As Laxalt noted, most of the votes which were left to be counted were in Nevada's largest county, Democratic-leaning Clark County, where Las Vegas is located. Officials had indicated Friday morning that roughly 50,000 votes were left to be counted, and released results from more than 15,000 of them on Friday night. Results from about 22,000 Clark County votes were released Saturday night.
Democratic-leaning Washoe County, the second largest county, where Reno is located, was on pace to finish counting Saturday night.
Beyond those votes, there were other Clark County ballots being processed. About 9,000 ballots that were in some way incomplete may be cured by voters until Monday night. There are also around 5,000 provisional ballots that cannot be counted until the secretary of state's office cross-checks them with lists of provisional votes from other counties to ensure there are no duplicate votes.
Cortez Masto, 58, was considered to be the most vulnerable Democratic senator fighting for reelection. Two Senate races remain to be decided. Georgia's Senate race is going to a runoff in early December. Alaska's Senate race also remains a toss-up, but the top two candidates are both Republicans.
Cortez Masto became the nation's first Latina senator when she won the race in 2016 to succeed the late Sen. Harry Reid when he retired at the end of his term.
– Alyssa Spady and Elizabeth Campbell contributed to this report.
Laxalt tweeted his concession Tuesday: "I am confident that any challenge of this election would not alter the ultimate outcome," he wrote. "That's why this morning I called Catherine Cortez Masto to congratulate her on her win."
"This race and the 2022 election cycle didn't go as we'd hoped, but I am proud of the race we ran," Laxalt wrote.
Laxalt, 44, served as Nevada's attorney general for one term before unsuccessfully running for governor against Steve Sisolak in 2018, who became the first Democrat to win the governorship in two decades. A former Navy officer and veteran of the Iraq War, his name is well known in Nevada — his grandfather, Paul Laxalt, was a governor and U.S. senator for the state. But 14 of Laxalt's family members have publicly thrown their support behind Cortez Masto.
In the 2020 election, Laxalt served as co-chairman of the former President Donald Trump's reelection campaign in Nevada, and he has echoed Trump's unfounded claims the election was stolen from him. In the 2022 election cycle, Laxalt has refused to say whether he would accept the results.
He's been joined on the campaign trail by both Trump and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, while former President Barack Obama worked to shore up support for Cortez Masto.
While Laxalt has focused his campaign messaging around the economy, attempting to link Cortez Masto and President Biden to high gas prices and record inflation, the issue of abortion has boosted Cortez Masto. But the race remains close, since there are fewer voters who are prioritizing abortion relative to economy and inflation.
Latino voters have helped propel past Democrats to victory in past elections and are expected to make up 20% of the state's electorate in the midterms. Mr. Biden won 65% of the Latino vote and the state overall by just over 33,600 votes in 2020. Both candidates are working to turn out Latino voters this year. CBS News' most recent polling before the election found that Cortez Masto had a double-digit lead with Latino voters over Laxalt.