Nevadans, Do Not Gamble on Putting GOPer Adam Laxalt in the Senate—Put Your Chips on Re-electing Catherine Cortez Masto—August 23, 2021
It’s back to school time. Many pupils have not been in a real classroom since the deadly COVID-19 pandemic closed down schools in mid-March, 2020. Let’s hope that lots of these youngsters are now going back masked. The rest of us still have elementary school political arithmetic to do.
Problem 1A: The U.S. Senate consists of 100 Senators. Presently, 50 are Democrats and 50 are Republicans. With Democrats Joe Biden and Kamala Harris winning the 2020 election for President and Vice-President respectively, who now controls that chamber? Answer to Problem 1A-- Under the U.S. Constitution, the VP becomes the tie-breaker. Therefore, Democrats currently control the U.S. Senate and can organize its committees with a 51-50 majority (U.S. Const., Article I, Section 3).
Problem 1B: In 2022, the next midterm election, 1/3 of the Senate is up for re-election as the Constitution requires (U.S. Const., Article I, Section 3). How many Senate seats does the current minority Republican (GOP) Party need to win to recapture the Senate majority? Answer to Problem 1B-- All the GOP needs to take back the Senate, its committees, and block Pres. Biden’s progressive agenda is just 1 seat. The GOP would then have a 51-49 majority and VP Harris would no longer be needed to break a tie vote. One of the seats considered vulnerable by CNN to flip is that of Nevada’s Democratic Senator Catherine Cortez Masto. Elected in 2016, Cortez Masto is running for her second term in 2022. The GOP “establishment” is getting behind Adam Laxalt to defeat Cortez Masto (americanindependent.com, Israel, J., 8/16/21). Let’s look at this race, which promises to be highly contested.
Reno, NV native Adam Paul Laxalt (42) has a well known name in the Silver State’s politics. He is the grandson of the late NV GOP Lt. Governor, Governor, and U.S. Senator Paul Laxalt (cnn.com, Cillizza, 8/17/21). Paul Laxalt was NV’s Lt. Governor in 1962 and NV’s Governor from 1967-1971. During that time, Gov. Laxalt became closely acquainted with neighboring CA GOP Gov. Ronald Reagan. Gov. Laxalt served as Reagan’s campaign chair in both Reagan’s unsuccessful 1976 presidential run and in Reagan’s successful 1980 White House race. Members of the D.C. press corps nicknamed Laxalt the “First Friend (nytimes.com, Clymer, 8/06/18).” From 1975-1987, Paul Laxalt was a U.S. Senator from NV. In his first Senate victory, 1974, Laxalt defeated Dem. Lt. Gov. Harry Reid. Reid later became the Democrats’ Senate Minority and Majority Leader. Like Reagan, Paul Laxalt was firm in his conservative views, but always courteous in expressing them. When Reagan became entangled in the Iran-Contra scandal, he wanted to replace his inept chief-of-staff Don Regan with Laxalt. Laxalt declined the job offer, but recommended TN GOP Senator Howard Baker for that post. Baker helped save Reagan’s presidency (See Clymer, nytimes.com, Whipple, “The Gatekeepers,” 2017, 2018).
Grandson Adam Laxalt received his undergraduate degree in 2001 and a law degree in 2005 from D.C’s Georgetown University (Roberts, abqjournal.com, 2/22/13, Nikolewski, 2/20/13, watchdog.org). In 1997, Laxalt was arrested for driving under the influence. He admitted to having a drinking problem in his teens and received treatment (Whaley, 1/20/14, “Las Vegas Review Journal”).
Laxalt worked for super-hawk Under Secretary of State for Arms Control John Bolton. He next joined the office of VA GOP U.S. Senator John Warner (Ralston, politico.com, 5/2014). He left D.C. and practiced law in Reno, NV until 2014. He served in the U.S. Navy’s Judge Advocate General’s Corps from 7/2005- 8/2010. He taught law at the U.S. Naval Academy and volunteered for posting to Camp Victory, Iraq during the Iraq War. He attained the rank of Lieutenant and received medals (“The Official Nevada Attorney General Website”). In 2010, Laxalt opposed the full repeal of the military’s anti-gay/lesbian “Don’t ask don’t tell” standard (Laxalt, A., nationalreview.com, 12/2010).
In 1/2014, Laxalt announced his candidacy for NV Attorney General. During that campaign, Laxalt overcame being charged by opponents as a carpetbagger to NV as well as negative evaluations from his law firm office (wikipedia). In the general election, Laxalt defeated his Democratic opponent by a .90 margin (2014 NV Attorney General Election).
As Attorney General, Laxalt spent his one term in office pushing a right-wing agenda and aiding his top donors (americanindependent.com, Israel, J., 8/16/21). Laxalt repeatedly sought to undermine abortion rights. He filed at least four known lawsuits supporting abortion restrictions. He filed a brief in support of a TX abortion ban, despite a 1990 NV referendum putting that state on record in support of reproductive choice. Pro-choice GOP Gov. Brian Sandoval’s office stated it was not consulted before Laxalt signed onto the TX abortion brief that went to the U.S. Supreme Court. In 2018, Laxalt told a local television outlet that he would “look into” repealing NV’s abortion rights protections (See, americaninedpendent.com, 8/16/21, nevadaindependent.com, scotusblog.com).” Laxalt was one big friend of the NRA’s (National Rifle Association’s) agenda. He boasted of taking “particular pride” in his office’s work to defend “the right of citizens to bear arms,” which he called “sacred and non-negotiable.” After a mass shooting at a 10/2017 Las Vegas concert, Laxalt complained that “these types of incidents are used politically every time” to push more gun restrictions. He argued that “no law could have prevented the deadly attacks (americanindependent.com, Israel, J., 8/16/21).”
In 2016, Atty. General Laxalt worked to block an investigation into whether Exxon Mobil illegally mislead the public about the dangers of climate change. Laxalt, who had received significant funding from fossil fuel interests, claimed he was just “defending the company’s free speech (Israel, J. americanindependent.com).” Laxalt additionally signed onto a CA lawsuit to keep secret the identities of the donors to one of his biggest political backers, the Americans for Prosperity (AFP) Foundation. The AFP is a group backed by reactionary GOP megadonors Charles and David Koch. The pro-business SCOTUS (Supreme Ct. of the United States) ruled in Laxalt’s and the AFP’s favor (See reviewjournal.com,6/25/18, rgj.com, 9/10/18).
In 2018, Laxalt ran for Governor of NV. He won a five-way GOP primary. He was endorsed by Demagogue Donald. Incumbent GOP Governor Brian Sandoval, however, did not endorse Laxalt. Sandoval stated he would not “support a candidate that is going to undo anything that I put forward (reviewjournal.com, 8/17/18).” Koch Industries supported Laxalt to the tune of $2.5 million (rgj.com, 9/10/18). In a 10/2018 op-ed, 12 members of Laxalt’s own family opposed his candidacy. They accused him of “a lack of real authentic connection to our state, and a failure to understand what is important to real Nevadans.” They also wrote that Laxalt had “a servitude to donors and out-of-state interests that puts their concerns ahead of real Nevadans (americanindependent.com, 8/16/21).” In the 11/2018 general election, Laxalt lost to Democratic nominee Steve Sisolak, chair of the Clark County Commission, by a 4.08 percent margin. While Laxalt won 15 of NV’s county-level jurisdictions, he lost the two largest counties, Clark, home to Las Vegas, and Washoe, home to Reno. Laxalt lost Clark by over 86,000 votes, double his statewide margin of 39,700 votes.
In 2020, as NV co-chair for Trump, Laxalt filed a series of failed lawsuits aimed at throwing out votes. Laxalt ridiculously argued that Trump won NV in 2020. He pushed the debunked claim that about 3,000 votes were “improperly cast” by people who don’t live in NV. A huge portion of those Laxalt accused of “criminal voter fraud” turned out to be Nevadans serving in the military and stationed in other states. Biden won NV by more than 33,000 votes (americanindependent.com, Israel, J. 8/16/21). On 8/17/2021, Adam Laxalt officially entered the race for the U.S. Senate against Democrat Catherine Cortez Masto. His running for Masto’s Senate seat had been widely expected for months (cnn.com, Cillizza, 8/17/21). Meet Senator Catherine Cortez Masto.
Las Vegas, NV native Cortez Masto is the daughter of the late Manny Cortez, the longtime head of the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority. He had a longstanding friendship with former Dem. Senator Harry Reid. Sen. Cortez Masto’s paternal grandfather immigrated to NV from Mexico and her mother is of Italian descent (Drusch, A., 3/27/15, nationaljournal.com, Cohen & Cook 2020 Political Almanac).
Catherine Cortez Masto received her 1986 B.S. degree from the University of Nevada, Reno and a 1990 law degree from Gonzaga University. Cortez Masto practiced law in Las Vegas and was also a federal prosecutor in the D.C. U.S. Attorney’s office. She served as chief-of-staff to former NV Democratic Governor Bob Miller (Cohen & Cook 2020 Almanac). In 2006, she was elected NV’s Attorney General and re-elected in 2010. In her first term, she went after meth labs and focused on prosecuting sex trafficking and domestic abuse cases. In her second term, Cortez Masto became friends with CA Dem. Atty. General Kamala Harris who won election to the Senate in 2016 and was elected VP in 2020. Atty. Generals Harris and Cortez Masto went after several large banks for their foreclosure and lending practices. The settlement Cortez Masto received from the Bank of America yielded nearly $2 billion for NV homeowners (Cohen & Cook 2020).
Cortez Masto was named second-in-command of the NV System of Higher Education. In 3/2015, just three months after being in that job, she resigned when Dem. U.S. Senator Harry Reid decided not to run for a sixth term in 2016. Reid stated he hoped Cortez Masto would run to succeed him. Cortez Masto relied on Reid’s strong political infrastructure in her general election against GOP Cong. Joe Heck. She campaigned on being pro-choice and stood for renewable energy technology. Cortez Masto played up her Hispanic and immigrant roots. Trump’s anti-immigrant record hurt Heck. When the misogynist “Access Hollywood” tape came out, Heck decided not to back Trump. Heck later called Trump “qualified.” Hillary and Cortez Masto carried NV by 2.4 points. Cortez Masto became the U.S. Senate’s first Latina. Cortez Masto overcame $50 million given to Heck by outside groups, including $9 million from Koch (Cohen & Cook, 2020, reviewjournal.com, Botkin, 9/25/16, 10/02/16).
In the Senate, Cortez Masto stood for strong gun control and after the 2017 Las Vegas massacre, co-sponsored a bill to ban bump stocks on semi-automatic weapons. She stood against repealing Obamacare and against Trump’s top 1% tax cut bill. She was appointed to head the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, after raising $10 million for Democratic candidates in 2018 and campaigning for them (See Cohen & Cook).
Senators and Congressmembers are most vulnerable when they are running for re-election for the first time. This is especially true in a swing state like NV which Biden won in 2020 by just 2.5 points. When Laxalt entered this race against Cortez Masto, the non-partisan Cook Political Report moved this race from the stronger “Likely Democrat” to “Lean Democrat” category. Laxalt still faces a GOP primary against at least two opponents, hard right war veteran Sam Brown and right-wing Christian business owner Sharelle Mendenhall (Margiott,mynews.4, 7/19/21). Mitch McConnell, is behind Laxalt. Laxalt can pretend to be “moderate” against his challengers and easily win the primary. Well-known Laxalt has had some close races of his own and will be a strong contender. Laxalt can count on millions from GOP groups and allies like Koch to prop him up again. He is running in a mid-term election when too many Democrats often don’t vote. In 2016, Cortez Masto carried only one county in the state, Las Vegas’ Clark County, which she won by 82,000 votes. Laxalt will do his best to cut into that margin to prevail. NV Democrats must come out in droves plus in 11/2022 for Cortez Masto, especially in Clark County. Control of the Senate hinges on Democrats putting their political chips on Sen. Cortez Masto.