tags: Press Releases

Lessons from Nevada: GOP Extremism Backfires and Motivates Latino Voters

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Washington, DC – The reasons behind Nevada Democrats’ success this cycle include a majority of voters’ rejection of Republican candidates’ extremism on a host of issues, including immigration and white nationalism, as well as the pivotal role played by Latino voters in the state and the accompanying formidable engagement and turnout operations by on-the-ground organizations and campaigns in Nevada.

While immigration wasn’t the main issue for most Nevada voters, including Latinos, the issue was part of GOP candidates’ larger MAGA extremist brands, including hostility to Dreamers and embrace of white nationalist “replacement” and “invasion” conspiracies. GOP nativism and hostility to Dreamers was particularly unpopular in contrast to Nevada Democratic candidates’ embrace of Dreamers. Among key Democratic wins, races and candidates’ immigration stances in Nevada include: 

  • NV Senate: As state AG, GOP Senate candidate Adam Laxalt joined Nevada onto a lawsuit challenging the expansion of DACA. During this cycle, during the contested GOP primaries, Laxalt ran radio ads in Las Vegas and Elko touting his hostility to Dreamers. Laxalt also embraced a version of the replacement theory on the campaign trail, a conspiracy with direct ties to white nationalist domestic terrorism.
    • Meanwhile, Democratic Senator Catherine Cortez Masto maintained a pro-immigrant stance throughout the cycle, touting a balanced approach that endorsed both border security and citizenship for longstanding undocumented immigrants. She also leaned into the issue in the homestretch by hosting a Dreamers/DACA roundtable in Las Vegas in mid-October at which she criticized Adam Laxalt for “playing politics with your lives” and stated, “Dreamers grew up here, they work here, and they’ve built their lives here. They are a vital part of our community and their voices belong at the table in Washington and at home in Nevada.”
  • Nevada Secretary of State: Republican Jim Marchant, was a ringleader of the election denier candidates across the country.  Marchant also falsely claimed undocumented immigrants were registering to vote and that all NV electeds since 2006 were “installed by the deep-state cabal.” Like every other election-denying GOP Secretary of State candidate this cycle, Marchant lost. Winning Democratic candidate Cisco Aguilar now becomes the first Latino Secretary of State in Nevada history.
  • NV-04 House Race: GOP candidate Sam Peters was an election denier, who made the deadly white nationalist “invasion” conspiracy a prominent part of his campaign. Peters also sought and promoted an endorsement from the white nationalist-aligned Arizona congressman Paul Gosar. Peters lost his tossup battleground district by over 4 points to Democrat Steven Horsford, who has been a long time outspoken champion for immigrants, in particular Dreamers.

Nevada voters strongly preferred the Democratic position on immigration over Republicans. Notably, late October polling of Nevada voters by Univision showed Nevada voters supported citizenship for undocumented immigrants by 65-35%, including a 78-22% margin among Nevada Latinos. Nevada voters also strongly preferred a balanced approach to immigration, including citizenship, instead of a “border first and enforcement” approach by a 61-39% margin including 68-32% among Nevada Latinos. 

The margins and turnout of Nevada Latinos was crucial to Cortez Masto’s win and other Democrats’ success in Nevada this cycle. In the large sample Midterm Voter Election Poll of Nevada Latinos who actually voted in 2022, Latino voters in the state provided the following critical margins to winning Democratic candidates.

  • 64-34% for Cortez Masto over Laxalt in NV Senate
  • 63-35% for Democrats over Republican candidates in NV House races 

And the continued investment, engagement, and proven turnout operations of heavily Latino voters are the story behind Democrats’ success. As the Los Angeles Times noted this week of the Culinary Workers Union Local 226:

“The Culinary canvassers, all paid union members on leave from their casino jobs, have been knocking on doors since March. They’ve focused on turning out their union peers who tend not to vote in midterm elections, as well as new citizens and minority voters. 

…The Culinary’s canvassing efforts are part of a get-out-the-vote machine that grew to prominence in the late 2000s. The late Sen. Harry Reid, the former Senate majority leader, relied heavily on the Culinary and its mostly Latino membership to help get President Obama elected in 2008 and to secure his own election victories as a Democrat in a swing state. Reid’s ability to galvanize broad union support that focused on canvassing working-class areas came to be known as the Reid machine.”

According to Vanessa Cárdenas, Executive Director for America’s Voice:

“Democrats’ victories in Nevada came straight through the barrios of the Silver State. Democrats’ continued Senate majority is built on the backs of the Latino voters whose turnout and margins helped ensure the re-election of the first Latina Senator in U.S. history, Catherine Cortez Masto. The on-the-ground organizing and turnout work by organizations and campaigns, particularly the Culinary workers, is the secret sauce behind Nevada Democrats’ continued string of close wins in Senate races..

Republican extremism including  on immigration failed, just as it did in 2010 in Senator Reid’s race against Sharron Angle. While Latino voters in Nevada were mostly motivated by issues other than immigration, Adam Laxalt’s proven hostility to Dreamers and the Republican Party’s ongoing embrace of dangerous white nationalist conspiracies contrasted with Cortez Masto leaning into solutions and her support for Dreamers.

The Nevada elections underscore voters’ support for immigration solutions, including legislation establishing citizenship for Dreamers before DACA ends. The Republican Party needs to rein in its dangerous extremism for the sake of their political future and our country’s democracy and Democrats need to follow through with concrete action on immigration.”