Wednesday, Nov. 7, 2018 | 1:34 a.m.
Nevada will have two Democrats in the U.S. Senate with GOP Sen. Dean Heller’s loss Tuesday to first-term congresswoman Jacky Rosen.
Heller was considered one of the most vulnerable Republicans in the country, the only GOP senator running for re-election in a state where Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton won in 2016. But Republicans retained control of the Senate, with more Democrats defending their seats than Republicans.
Rosen said she was going to fight for a $15 federal minimum wage, defend Social Security and Medicare from cuts and take steps to protect the environment, among other issues.
“Together, all of us, we voted to make this a country that once again lives up to our American values,” Rosen said. “Donald Trump said he was on the ballot in this election. I’m really proud to say Nevada responded. To everybody watching tonight, I have a message: No matter what the color of your skin, no matter what your religion, no matter who you love or where you came from, you are part of the fabric of America, and this is your country, too.”
In his concession speech, Heller pointed to his work to bring a more conservative Supreme Court, among other issues.
“We’ve hit a blue wave,” he said.
Early voting turnout in Nevada was well above 2014 levels, similar to what was seen in the 2016 presidential election. There was an uptick in voter enthusiasm nationwide, with 38 million people voting early either in person or by mail this year compared to 27 million in 2014.
People of color and young voters also turned out in stronger numbers, according to TargetSmart data. Nevada early voting turnout was up from 2014 by 364 percent among 18- to 29-year-old voters, 327 percent among African American voters, 157 percent among Hispanic voters and 133 percent among Asian American and Pacific Islander voters.
President Donald Trump said at a Nov. 5 rally that the GOP was energized by his Supreme Court pick, Brett Kavanaugh, who was accused of sexual misconduct and confirmed after testifying in his defense at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing.
Heller supported the nomination, while Rosen said she would have opposed it.
“The Democrats overplayed their hand just as they overplayed their hand with a lot of things,” Trump said, according to a White House press pool report.
U.S. Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto, a Nevada Democrat and the Senate’s first Latina, said on the night of the election that Democrats had a tough map to win control of the Senate. She said it was important that the House flipped blue to help check GOP policies under Trump and the GOP Senate.
“The goal was to hold our own and continue to be able to ... even though we’re in a minority, to stop things like the repeal of the Affordable Care Act, which we did,” Cortez Masto said.
Health care and congressional experience were key pieces of the Senate race, with Rosen supporting fixes to the Affordable Care Act and Heller voting both for and against repeal. Heller has criticized the first-term congresswoman for seeking a higher office so soon after joining Congress.
Trump campaigned alongside Heller during the election cycle, visiting Nevada in back to back months in the lead-up to early voting. Former President Barack Obama and other famous names in politics, comedy and music visited the state to stump for Democrats.
Republicans have been voicing support for protecting coverage for those with preexisting conditions, though experts say GOP measures fall short of Obamacare protections for those individuals.
The Department of Justice under Trump is also stepping back from defending preexisting conditions protections in court. Texas and some other Republican states are suing to have key provisions of the law nixed due to the elimination of the individual mandate, which created a tax penalty for people who were uninsured and was eliminated through the Republicans’ new tax law.
Andres Ramirez of Protect Our Care Nevada said in a statement that Nevada’s vote for Rosen was a vote for health care.
“Nevadans have spoken and their message is crystal clear: they want an end to the Republican war on health care, starting with lower health care and prescription drug costs, and an end to junk insurance plans,” he said. “It’s time for Republicans to call off their attacks, end their repeal-and-sabotage agenda and keep their hands off Nevadans’ health care.”
Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval appointed Heller in 2011 to fill the remainder of Republican John Ensign’s term. Ensign acknowledged an affair in 2009 and announced his resignation in 2011.