Nevada Democrat Catherine Cortez Masto narrowly won reelection over the weekend, giving her party control of the U.S. Senate for another two years.
She beat Trump-backed Republican Adam Laxalt by roughly 7,000 votes — a much slimmer margin than in 2016, when she was first elected to the Senate (and notably became the first Latina woman to do so).
Their closely watched race was considered a toss-up in the battleground state. Nevada voters also elected a Democrat as secretary of state (over a Republican who baselessly maintained the 2020 election was stolen) and a Republican governor (which makes Gov. Steve Sisolak, who in 2018 was elected the first Democrat in more than two decades to represent the state, the only incumbent governor to lose so far in 2022).
This election shows that every vote counts, says Cortez Masto, who campaigned on women's reproductive rights. She recalls her grandmother, the oldest of 13 children, who would walk to her local polling place even when she could no longer drive because she knew how important it was to exercise that right and make her voice heard.
"Their vote is their voice," she says of today's voters, especially those who don't believe their vote really counts. "In a community that still is only 3 million people ... you have the ability to make a difference and who you are going to elect, that will either stand with you or against you and take away your rights."
Cortez Masto says that's particularly true in Nevada, where races are "always competitive and ... always close."
She describes Nevada as a purple state, since 15 of its 17 counties are rural and vote Republican. People assume it's blue, because "we've done a really good job of electing Democrats here," she says.
"To me and most Nevadans, this is not about blue or red," she adds. "This is about fighting for Nevada families and working families and standing up with them and making sure that not only do you understand them, but you're willing to take on those challenges that they're dealing with to make their lives a little easier."
She spoke to Morning Edition host A Martínez about the challenges that her constituents — and her party — are facing in her home state.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
On whether her narrow win suggests trouble for Democrats in Nevada
One thing I know about Nevada, growing up here, is that there are always competitive races and you can't take any Nevadans for granted. And that's why it is important to get out and talk to voters and listen to them about the issues and make sure they understand that you're there not only to fight for them, but you get it. You get their challenges. For me, as somebody who's third-generation, whose family came out to work in the hospitality industry here in Nevada, I understand it.
On how her record has helped Nevada
The work that I was able to already do, from the bipartisan infrastructure package — that addresses some of the issues we're dealing with, from drought to wildfires — to bringing broadband to so many of our unconnected communities in this state, to the CHIPS and Science Act ... and then the Inflation Reduction Act, making sure that we are taking care of individuals so that they can afford their health care, including their medications, capping the cost of insulin, lowering energy costs for families. Those are things that not only did we get done, I was able to talk to Nevadans about and let them know, look, that this is a comprehensive approach to helping families.
On what's next for the Democratic party
Do we still have work to do? Absolutely. Listen, a gallon of gas here in Nevada is still high ... And I see it. I'm frustrated by it, because I fill up my gas tank and so many of my family and Nevadans do. And our housing costs are still too high. We still have more work to do to help families and lower those costs. And do I have ideas about that? Absolutely. I have legislation around it. And that's what that's what Nevadans are looking for. They're looking for solutions.
This interview was conducted by A Martínez, produced by Julie Depenbrock and edited by Ally Schweitzer.