Trump-backed Nevada GOP Senate candidate concedes loss

LAS VEGAS (AP) — The Republican challenger to Democratic Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto in Nevada conceded on Tuesday that he lost, issuing statements saying that he won’t contest the result but calling mail-in balloting a “tactic” that tilted the balance.

“I am confident that any challenge of this election would not alter the ultimate outcome,” GOP candidate Adam Laxalt said in a tweet that campaign adviser Robert Uithoven confirmed was authentic.

Laxalt, who had the vocal endorsement of former President Donald Trump, called Cortez Masto to congratulate her on her victory, Cortez Masto campaign aide Sigalle Reshef confirmed. The Associated Press called the race on Saturday, declaring Cortez Masto the winner.

Laxalt told the AP more than a year ago that he was preparing legal challenges to the outcome of the 2022 election. In his Twitter statement and a separate email sent Tuesday to supporters, he complained that “Republican turnout on Election Day was significantly lower than expected as we needed to overcome nearly three weeks of Democrat-favored mail-in voting.”

“Nevada’s new elections laws enacted two years ago allowed for massive ballot harvesting and votes dropped off at drop boxes and polling places on Election Day,” Laxalt said in the email. “Republicans will either have to fix our election laws or better adjust to them and to the tactics used against us.”

He said mail-in voting "is not a form of voting Republican voters prefer, so as those ballots were tabulated, they skewed heavily towards Democrats up and down the ballot, including our opponent.”

Uithoven characterized the tweet as a brief public statement and said the email “provided a little more detail” to Laxalt's supporters.

There have been no allegations of widespread problems in Nevada’s elections. The governor's seat flipped from Democrat to Republican when Las Vegas-area Sheriff Joe Lombardo defeated incumbent Gov. Steve Sisolak. The GOP also won statewide lieutenant governor and controller posts.

Nevada’s vote count took several days partly because the Legislature in 2020 adopted a law requiring counties to accept ballots postmarked by Election Day if they arrive up to four days later. Laxalt had an early lead that dwindled after late-counted ballots came in from the state’s population centers in Las Vegas and Reno.

Cortez Masto’s win, along with Democratic Sen. Mark Kelly’s victory in Arizona, gave Democrats a 50-49 edge in the Senate. Along with Vice President Kamala Harris’ tiebreaking vote, the party will retain control of the chamber no matter the result of next month’s Georgia runoff between Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock and Republican candidate Herschel Walker.

Cortez Masto, the first Latina to serve in the Senate, was considered the most vulnerable Democratic senator in the midterm elections, and the Republican Party had high hopes of flipping the seat.

She raised far more money than Laxalt, but had to weather an onslaught of attack ads funded by national GOP groups. Cortez Masto spent nearly $47 million and had more than $6 million in cash on hand through mid-October, according to OpenSecrets, a nonprofit that tracks campaign finances and lobbying. Laxalt spent nearly $13 million and had about $3 million remaining during the same time.

Cortez Masto is a former two-term state attorney general. She focused her Senate campaign on threats to abortion access nationwide and worked to court the state’s Spanish-speaking residents and hourly wage earners. She pointed out her support of a permanent pathway to citizenship for “Dreamers” and regularly visited union halls and workers’ groups.

Laxalt is the grandson of former GOP U.S. Sen. and Nevada Gov. Paul Laxalt and the son of former Republican Sen. Pete Domenici, of New Mexico. He served one elected term as Nevada attorney general, lost a bid for governor in 2018 and co-chaired Trump’s failed campaign in Nevada in 2020 — spending months leading efforts in the media and in courts to challenge the result as fraudulent.

Laxalt insisted that ineligible and dead voters cast ballots, that laws adopted by the Democratic-led Legislature to send mail-in ballots to every active voter invited fraud, and that Republican observers were prevented from seeing ballot counting or challenging signatures on mail-in ballots.

Only a case to keep some Las Vegas-area polling places open until people in line had cast ballots briefly survived court scrutiny. Like the others, it was later dismissed.

“I entered this arena for my family and those all over Nevada and America who believe our country is headed in the wrong direction,” Laxalt, an attorney, said in his statements on Tuesday. He said he will “return to private life and private practice.”

“This race and the 2022 election cycle didn’t go as we hoped,” he said, “but I am proud of the race that we ran.”

___

Follow AP’s coverage of the elections at: https://apnews.com/hub/2022-midterm-elections

Ken Ritter, The Associated Press