Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto reflects on her pivotal reelection in Nevada Democrats retained control of the U.S. Senate after Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto won reelection in an exceptionally close race. She speaks with Morning Edition about what the race means for her party.

Sen. Cortez Masto, who gave Democrats the Senate, says people want solutions

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A MARTÍNEZ, HOST:

Democrats are expected to keep control of the U.S. Senate after a Senate race in Nevada was called over the weekend. Democratic Senator Catherine Cortez Masto won reelection after a tough challenge from Republican Adam Laxalt. But her narrow victory raises questions about Democrats' future success in the state. Senator Cortez Masto joins us now. First off, Senator, congratulations on your reelection. You won by fewer than 7000 votes. In 2016, you won by a much bigger margin. Is your party on shaky ground in Nevada right now?

CATHERINE CORTEZ MASTO: You know, one thing I know about Nevada growing up here is that they're always competitive races, and you can't take any Nevadans for granted. And that's why it is important to get out and talk to voters and listen to them about the issues and make sure they understand that you're there not only to fight for them, but you get it. You get their challenges. And, you know, for me as somebody who's third generation, whose family came out to work in the hospitality industry here in Nevada, I understand it. I get these families. They're my families. That's how I grew up. That's why I am proud and honored every day to represent Nevadans.

MARTÍNEZ: Nevada has been a - more of a blue state over the years, but now it seems like it's clearly turning at least purple at the very least. Democrats have held power in Nevada, at least on the U.S. Senate side, since 2018. Why do you think that is?

CORTEZ MASTO: Well, I can tell you it's fascinating to me. People always assume that it's blue because we've done a really good job of electing Democrats here. But it really is a purple state. It's 17 counties. 15 are rural counties, and they're red counties. And here's what I know. To me and most Nevadans, this is not about blue or red. This is about fighting for Nevada families and working families and standing up with them and making sure that not only do you understand them, but you're willing to take on those challenges that they're dealing with to make their lives a little easier. And, you know, in my race, that's why I was honored to have the support of not just Democrats but Republicans and nonpartisans.

MARTÍNEZ: Now, I was in Nevada for Election Day. I also was in Nevada a couple of weeks before Election Day. I spoke with a lot of Latino voters. One of them is Cesar Ortega. And he told us he wasn't sure if he'd be voting.

CESAR ORTEGA: I don't know. I just don't feel I'd make a change. Just with one vote, you know, I don't really make a change. To me, it's like I'm just a little eh. You know, what's my vote going to make? I don't make a difference, you know?

MARTÍNEZ: So, Senator, now that the election's over, what would you say to him that his vote does matter in the future?

CORTEZ MASTO: Well, their vote is their voice in a community that's still only 3 million people. And you have the ability to make a difference and who you are going to elect that will either stand with you or against you and take away your rights. And so it is important, particularly in Nevada, when the races are always competitive, and they are always close. It is important for people to to realize that - listen. I have a grandmother from Las Cruces, N.M. She's oldest daughter of 13, and she worked hard her entire life. She worked retail. She retired retail. And her retirement - Social Security and Medicare. But she loved her family. She went to church every Sunday, and she voted. And when she couldn't drive anymore in this community, she walked to her local school so she could vote because it was that important for her. And to me, that's why it is so important for people to come out. And those are the conversations I've had with so many Nevadans.

MARTÍNEZ: Senator, this red wave that never quite happened across the United States, both in Senate races and also in House races - how will the Democratic Party, do you think, take what just happened? Sigh of relief or maybe try to work to make sure that any Democratic advantages grow in the future?

CORTEZ MASTO: Well, I can tell you just from the perspective of Nevada, the work that we - I was able to already do from the bipartisan infrastructure package that addresses some of the issues we're dealing with, from drought to wildfires, and then the Inflation Reduction Act - making sure that we are taking care of individuals so that they can afford their health care, including their medications, capping the costs of insulin, lowering energy costs for families. Those are things that not only do we get done - I was able to talk to Nevadans about. Do we still have work to do? Absolutely.

Listen. A gas - a gallon of gas here in Nevada is still high. It's highest in the country. And I see it. I'm frustrated by it because I fill up my gas tank. And so many of my family and Nevadans do. And our housing costs are still too high. We still have more work to do to help families and lower those costs. And do I have ideas about that? Absolutely. I have legislation around it. And that's what Nevadans are looking for. They're looking for solutions. And I do think it is important that we continue down this path of finding those solutions for these hardworking families.

MARTÍNEZ: Senator, I'm in California. I might challenge you on that highest (laughter) gas prices in the nation comment that you made. Democratic U.S. Senator Catherine Cortez Masto of Nevada, thank you very much for the time.

CORTEZ MASTO: Thank you.

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