POLITICS

Nevada's Cortez Masto becomes 1st Latina elected to the U.S. Senate

Former Nevada Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto.

Former Nevada Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto.  (2010 Getty Images)

Democrat Catherine Cortez Masto became the first Latina elected to the U.S. Senate on Tuesday night when she defeated the Republican Rep. Joe Heck, in a tight race to replace retiring Sen. Harry Reid.

Cortez Masto’s win, in which she took won just under 49 percent of the vote, was one of the few bright spots for the Democratic Party on a difficult night that saw them lose a number of Senate races they were expected to win.

The 52-year-old former Nevada attorney general will take over the mantle from the pugnacious and polarizing 76-year-old Senate Minority Leader, her stylistic opposite who's reluctantly retiring following an exercise accident that crushed part of his face and left him blind in one eye.

The open seat was considered one Republicans had a chance to flip to their side during a year in which they were supposed to be playing defense in the upper house. With control of the Senate at stake, Reid's allies and enemies, including the conservative Koch brothers, poured a lot of money into the contest, turning it into one of the most expensive Senate races in the country.

During her campaign, Cortez Masto, who had not previously faced a highly competitive race, was quick to distance herself from the controversial Reid.

"Sen. Reid's not on the ballot, and to me this is a race I'm focused on about the issues that people in my state, where I was born and raised, care about, because I will be representing them in Washington, not Sen. Reid," Cortez Masto said over the summer.

Likewise, Cortez Masto’s campaign and supporters seized on Heck’s backing of GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump and cast him as a local version of the real estate mogul. Like Cortez Masto, Heck tried to distance his campaign from that of Trump and his hardline stance toward undocumented immigrants.

Nevada became another bright spot for the Democrats when presidential nominee Hillary Clinton won the state and its six electoral votes.

Her victory there brought her Electoral College total to 215. Republican Donald Trump had 244 votes.

It takes 270 electoral votes to win the presidency.

Clinton's win in Nevada is the first time since the 1940s that the Democrats have carried the state in three consecutive elections.

The winner of the U.S. presidential election has failed to carry Nevada only once.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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