What happens in Vegas could determine which party controls the US Senate

LAS VEGAS (AP) — In a boardroom just north of Las Vegas Boulevard, where casinos stand like gleaming beacons of amusement, Ted Pappageorge issued a darker, more urgent call to action ahead of the US election. next month.

Pappageorge, head of the Latino-heavy casino workers union, told hundreds of union members last weekend that Nevada Democratic Governor Steve Sisolak and U.S. Senator Catherine Cortez Masto were “warriors” for the workers whose jobs have been hit hard by the pandemic while Republicans who could defeat them in November are “extreme.”

Across town at the same time, at a mall in a retirement community where golf carts share the street with cars, Joe Lombardo, the Republican gubernatorial candidate, told a crowd of about 100 people: “This election, you have to ask a question: Is your life better today than four years ago?

“Nope!” the audience shouted in response. “That’s the common response,” Lombardo said.

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The two rallies kicked off an intense two-week early voting period in a state that could shape the country’s political future. Much of the focus is on Las Vegas, the gambling mecca that drives the state’s economy and is home to three quarters of the state’s population. If Democrats want to score victories, they need to increase turnout here to offset GOP strength in rural communities that dominate the rest of the state.

Clark County, which includes Las Vegas, has about 1.3 million registered voters.
So far, the numbers present a mixed picture. Early in-person turnout in Las Vegas was light over the weekend, with only about 19,000 voters casting their ballots in person the first two days. But mail-in voting, a process favored by Democrats, was stronger, with about 41,500 votes cast. About 20,000 of those votes came from registered Democrats, compared to about 10,600 from Republicans. The rest were cast by unaffiliated or third-party voters.

The governor’s mansion and the seat occupied by Cortez Masto, the first Latina in the U.S. Senate, are seen as two of the Republican Party’s best chances to topple statewide offices across the country. His opponent is Republican Adam Laxalt, whose name is well known as a former attorney general and grandson of a former US senator from Nevada and who hosted a fundraising event at the former’s private club. President Donald Trump, Mar-a-Lago Florida. and embraced Trump’s claims that the 2020 election was illegitimate. He won Trump’s endorsement in a tight GOP primary.

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Nevada’s winners next month could be determined by the unique social and economic circumstances in Las Vegas.

Rising costs that are being felt globally are a double whammy here. The city’s heavily working-class population is pinched by rising grocery prices, and gasoline remains above $5 a gallon. Additionally, higher costs in the United States and around the world mean that tourists can spend less when visiting, if they even do so.

Republican Jeffrey Burns, a property manager and chef in Las Vegas, said he voted “Republican all the way” because everything Democrats in power do “is so completely upside down.”

He said he wanted Laxalt to be a conservative Republican in the Senate and stop endorsing “spending tons and tons of money like Masto does.”

Burns said he wants the United States to be energy independent and sees gas prices as a clear sign of trouble and adds that for him supply chain shortages are always noticeable. “Like, I’m going for eggs,” Burns said. “And there are just no eggs. And it’s like, why are there no eggs? It’s just weird.

George Trachtman, a Democrat and lawyer who lives in the town of Enterprise, Nevada, said he voted for Cortez Masto and Sisolak. Trachtman said economic conditions are not as bad as portrayed.

U.S. Senator Catherine Cortez Masto, a Democrat, hugs a supporter during La Gran Celebracion Latina October 16 at the East Las Vegas Community Center in Las Vegas.

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

“If I go to the Strip, I see tons of people there having fun and having fun,” he said. He added that he had been to a mall the day before and couldn’t find a parking space because it was too crowded.

“It doesn’t look like a recession or that we’re headed in that direction,” he said. “And I understand that interest rates are going up, so things will slow down. But right now things seem to be going better than reported.”

Perhaps no state has been hit harder economically by the pandemic than tourism-dependent Nevada, where casinos were closed for two and a half months and unemployment at one point topped 28% — the worst of the country and the worst of any state since the Great Depression.

More than two years later, unemployment is much lower, at 4.4%, even though it is the third highest rate in the United States.

Casino earnings, a key economic indicator, have increased significantly, as have visitor numbers and convention attendance, but these have not returned to pre-pandemic levels. Three casinos that never reopened are flattened and around 10% of the Culinary Union’s 60,000 members remain unemployed.

Union members transform into a political force here every two years, calling voters and knocking on doors on behalf of Democratic candidates, especially in the city’s multilingual and working-class neighborhoods.

Their union hall has become a must-stop for Democrats, especially once ballots start rolling in.

“I know what this fight is about,” Cortez Masto told the crowd. “These are well-paying jobs. It’s about affordable health care. It’s about making sure we can retire with dignity.

“They supported us when we needed it,” Pappageorge said of the Democratic candidates who accompanied him. After his remarks were translated into Spanish, he added, “We’ll back them up now.”

Across the city, Republicans were decidedly optimistic as they predicted a “red wave” would come to Nevada.

The GOP nominees rode to a palm-studded mall in a large bus bearing the name “Laxalt” and exited as country duo Brooks & Dunn’s song “Only in America” ​​played and the crowd d ‘about 100 people clapped and cheered. Although several in the crowd were wearing “Trump” hats, no one mentioned the former president’s name.

Laxalt mocked Cortez Masto for not hosting campaign appearances with President Joe Biden and said the state ‘can’t afford another week of the Joe Biden-Catherine Cortez Masto economy’ .

“People are as upset as they’ve ever been about what’s going on in America,” he said. “We have an opportunity here in the midst of a red wave for a transformational election, to transform our state, to take back our country. That’s your job for the next two weeks.

MarketWatch contributed.

James V. Hayes