On what was otherwise a rough night, retiring Minority Leader Harry Reid has at least one reason to smile.
Former Nevada Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto will keep the Senate seat he’s vacating in Democratic hands, The Associated Press projects.
Cortez Masto is projected to defeat Rep. Joe Heck after polls closed Tuesday evening. Reid’s Nevada Democratic Party. Much of her vote came in early voting.
The race had been rated a Tossup by the Rothenberg & Gonzales Political Report/Roll Call. And polling, which can be suspect in Nevada, has fluctuated between Heck and Cortez Masto.
Republicans viewed picking off the seat as important to holding on to control of the Senate, and it came with the added element of Republicans waging one more battle against Reid’s political machine.
Heck told reporters in October that he was hoping to build a Republican operation in the Silver State reminiscent of Reid’s, but that the retiring Democrat’s infrastructure could fall away once he is no longer around to oversee it.
“Without him here being the person running the machine, the Democratic machine is gone after 2016,” Heck said.
Democrats grew more confident of their ability to defeat Heck after the congressman reversed course and said he would not support Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, only to hedge on whether or not he would actually vote for Trump anyway.
Cortez Masto’s election will make history, as she is in line to become the first Latina to serve in the Senate, something that was not lost on her or her supporters during the campaign.
“Government should be just as diverse as the population that we represent, and it’s important to have now that different voice, a Latina voice, at the table when we’re talking about decisions that need to be made,” Cortez Masto said in an interview in Las Vegas. “I get to continue to fight and be a voice for people in this state and bring a different perspective to the United States Senate.”
Campaigning for Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton in Reno and Sparks, Reid had said Cortez Masto had declined to run for other elected positions in the state, waiting for an opportunity to seek a Senate seat, a point she effectively confirmed the next day.
“I was honored to serve the people of this state for eight years and work on issues important for families and important for the state, and yeah, it was no secret that people had asked me would I be interested in future office and I said United States Senate,” Cortez Masto said.
Cortez Masto arrives in the Senate as Reid’s handpicked successor in the Silver State, and the political connections between the two run deep.
She touched on her own background to push for an immigration overhaul. She supports the Obama administration’s immigration executive actions on the Deferred Action for Parents of Americans program, known as DAPA.
That program allows undocumented immigrant parents of U.S. citizens and legal residents to stay in the country and get work authorization and other government benefits, and she criticizes Republicans for their opposition.
“This is not what America is about — and not the America that allowed my grandfather to immigrate from Mexico, start a new life, and raise a family here in Nevada,” Cortez Masto said in a written statement. “I will fight to ensure that Nevada families are able [to] stay together and have the opportunity to succeed — just as my family did decades ago.”
Nevada’s population is 27 percent Latino, giving it the fifth highest percentage in the nation. Cortez Masto said she hired undocumented immigrants who were brought to the United States as children — known as DREAMers — to work in her office as Nevada’s attorney general.