The blue wave that failed to wash over America showed up in Nevada, albeit a few hours late.
Democrats Steve Sisolak and Jacky Rosen defeated Republicans Adam Laxalt and Dean Heller.
Sisolak’s victory marked the first time in 24 years a Nevada Democrat has won a race for governor.
Heller’s defeat marked the first time he lost an election in a political career that has spanned nearly 3 decades.
Democrats also won 3 of the state’s 4 U.S. House districts, including two that were viewed as competitive.
Sisolak: “We knew Nevada was better than that”
In a victory speech, Sisolak reiterated many of the themes he struck during the campaign, vowing to be on the side of teachers and praising the importance of strong unions.
Like many of the Democrats speaking Tuesday night, Sisolak also addressed the midterm election in the context of the Trump era political environment.
“We’ve seen a lot of ugliness in this world lately,” Sisolak said. “From the horror we all witnessed just a couple miles from here on 1 October, to the recent violence aimed at political figures, the fear-mongering, and the hate crimes.”
“But here in Nevada, we knew that wasn’t who we are. We knew Nevada was better than that. And this year, this election, you proved us right,” the governor-elect said.
Sisolak ended his speech by echoing outgoing Gov. Brian Sandoval, and promising to represent everyone in the state.
“We will not be divided by north south, rural or urban. We will be one Nevada. That starts right now,” Sisolak said.
It was a continuation of Sisolak’s campaign narrative, in which he effectively cast himself as running for Sandoval’s third term. He lavished praise on Sandoval throughout the campaign, promising to continue Sandoval’s efforts to diversify the economy and protect Sandoval’s tax increase to fund education.
Laxalt, who gave a brief concession speech in Reno, won the race for attorney general in 2014 as the first candidate to win a statewide office while losing the state’s two most populous counties.
It was a distinction that perhaps could only have happened in 2014, when Democrats failed to run a credible candidate for governor, Democratic turnout was dismal, and Democrats got crushed.
Since that victory, Laxalt has been touted as a rising star on the right, at least by some national figures on the right. But the fundamentals of his political prospects in Nevada were far less rosy.
Sandoval refused to endorse Laxalt. Several of Laxalt’s relatives endorsed Sisolak, appearing in videos and writing opinion pieces accusing the attorney general of moving to Nevada from Virginia in 2011 for the sole purpose of cashing in on the Laxalt name and starting a political career.
Laxalt may have been further hampered by the style and tenor of his campaign; Laxalt repeatedly refused to be interviewed by newspaper and television outlets, even for relatively benign profile pieces. He rarely spoke in his own campaign ads. And there was no gubernatorial debate.
Rosen: “Nevada responded appropriately”
Like Sisolak and other Democrats speaking Tuesday, Rosen credited former Democratic Sen. Harry Reid for his role in building the Democratic Party and his support of Nevada Democratic candidates.
“I appreciate his friendship, his guidance, and his support,” Rosen said of Reid, who plucked her out of relative obscurity to run for Congress two years ago.
“Forty years ago, I was working right down the hall here at Caesars Palace as a cocktail waitress putting tips in my envelopes so I could help pay for college,” Rosen said. “Thinking about that young woman then, I could never have imagined all these years later that I would be standing here, on this stage, as your next United States Senator.”
Rosen said voters voted in order to make sure that America lived up to American values.
“Donald Trump said he was on the ballot,” Rosen said during a victory speech. “I’m really proud to say Nevada responded appropriately.”
In her remarks, Rosen listed the issues she intends to “fight for” in the Senate, including a $15 minimum wage, relief from crushing student loan debt, protecting social security and Medicare, common sense gun safety, civil rights, voting rights, immigration reform, climate change, a green energy economy, protecting funding for Planned Parenthood, and — the signature issue of Democratic campaigns this cycle — healthcare.
Heller was gracious in defeat, complimenting Rosen and the Democrats for their campaign. “She’s my senator,” Heller said, promising to do whatever he can to help her during the transition.
Heller also seemed to nod at the impact of the midterm election in the context of the Trump era.
“As a party we’re going to have to come back together and decide how we go forward in the future. But my hat’s off for what they have been able to achieve.”
Heller referred to the tax reform passed by the Republican Congress last year and signed by President Donald Trump as “a generational change.” And “to move the Supreme Court to the right. That also was a generational achievement, and I was pleased and proud to be a part of that,” Heller said.
Earlier in the evening before any results had been reported, Heller, surrounded by his family, took to the stage in the South Point ballroom.
“I got a phone call from the vice-president today. I want to thank the vice-president for his support. I want to thank President Trump for his efforts. President Trump has been in Nevada five times this cycle,” Heller said.
“I heard they unwittingly released some of the results in Elko. We had 80 percent of the vote,” Heller exclaimed with a smile to the cheers of a crowd hungry for news.
But later in the evening, results from the rest of the state would show that Heller’s showing in lightly populated, heavily Republican rural counties was not strong enough to fend off the high turnout in Clark and Washoe counties.