Democratic Rep. Jacky Rosen won the Nevada Senate race Tuesday, defeating GOP Sen. Dean Heller in one of the most hotly contested races of the cycle. Rosen’s victory was a rare piece of good news for Democrats on a night when Republicans decisively retained control of the chamber.
With 78 percent of precincts reporting, Rosen led Heller 51 percent to 45 percent when The Associated Press called the race.
Heller was a top target for Democrats, who had a narrow path to flipping the chamber, defending nearly three times as many Senate seats as Republicans this year. Heller, who prior to Tuesday had never lost an election, had consistently ranked among the most vulnerable Senate incumbents as the only Republican running in a state that backed Hillary Clinton in 2016.
Nevada was also a bright spot for Democrats in 2016, when Clinton won it by 2 points, and the party held Harry Reid’s Senate seat, but operatives on both sides expected a close Senate race this year in the evenly divided state.
Heller, who served in the House before he was appointed to the Senate in 2011, aligned himself with Trump and argued that a GOP-controlled Senate was necessary to continue the economic progress under the Trump administration.
Rosen, a first-term congresswoman and former synagogue president, was one of the few Democratic Senate contenders this cycle to openly chide her GOP opponent for doing so. (Most were running in more Republican-friendly states where Trump remains popular.) She centered much of her campaign on health care, arguing that Heller’s role in the GOP effort to repeal the 2010 health care law would have harmed Nevadans.
Rosen, like other Democrats across the country, had a financial advantage in the race. She raised $21.6 million to Heller’s $14.5 million through the pre-general reporting period on Oct. 17, according to Federal Election Commission documents.
While Democrats were optimistic heading into Election Day, there was still concern on the ground that the race could slip away. But Nevada Democrats do have an effective turnout operation, particularly when it comes to turning out Latino voters, who are a key voting bloc.
Nevada will now be the fifth state to have two female senators, after California, Washington, New Hampshire and Minnesota.
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