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Democrats win US Senate, governor in Nevada ‘blue wave’

LAS VEGAS (AP) — The Democratic “blue wave” hit up and down the ballot in Nevada on Tuesday, toppling an incumbent Republican U.S. senator, keeping two open U.S. House seats in the Democratic column and giving the party its first Nevada governor in two decades.

The wins in the battleground state fueled by powerfully organized labor unions and backlash to President Donald Trump also kept the state Legislature in Democratic hands.

“Donald Trump said that he was on the ballot in this election,” Democrat Jacky Rosen said in her victory speech shortly after being elected U.S. senator. “Well, I’m really proud to say that Nevada responded accordingly.”

Rosen’s election as Nevada’s second Democratic, female U.S. Senator, followed a campaign where she hammered her opponent, incumbent Republican Dean Heller, for his alliance to Trump, calling him a “rubber stamp” for the president.

Heller said he had been confident going into Tuesday night that he would win, and even took the stage early at a GOP victory party to once again tout the robust U.S. economy and give credit to the president for it.

In his concession speech, Heller acknowledged Nevada has “had couple of blue waves for a couple of cycles.”

“As a party, we’re going to have to come back together and decide how we’re going to go forward in the future,” Heller added.

Heavy turnout created long lines at the polls across the state and kept voters casting ballots nearly three hours after polls were scheduled to close. The Nevada Secretary of State’s office said the last ballot was cast shortly after 10 p.m.

In addition to picking Rosen, Nevada voters went left to choose Democrat Steve Sisolak for governor. Sisolak is the chair of the Clark County Commission, which oversees the world-famous Las Vegas Strip.

Sisolak defeated Republican Attorney General Adam Laxalt aided by the support of Nevada’s organized labor.

Dozens of unionized workers, including members of the powerful pro-Democratic Culinary Union, attended the party’s gathering at a casino-resort on the Las Vegas Strip. So did construction workers whose union supported the Sisolak-backed stadium that the Oakland Raiders are building in Sin City.

“It’s about our union men and women making Nevada union strong,” the governor-elect said. The crowd reacted with chants of “Union! Union!”

Voters also elected Democrat Kate Marshall to serve alongside him as lieutenant governor.

In the U.S. House, Democrats kept control of three of Nevada’s four seats Tuesday night, including two swing, open seats near Las Vegas.

Democrat Susie Lee, an education philanthropist, defeated Republican Danny Tarkanian, the son of legendary UNLV basketball coach Jerry Tarkanian, in the 3rd Congressional District.

The seat had been held by Rosen.

In a district covering northern Las Vegas and the mountain towns and deserts beyond that, voters elected former Democratic Rep. Steven Horsford to Nevada’s 4th District. Horsford was in a rematch with former GOP congressman Cresent Hardy, who held the seat for one term before losing in 2016.

In the safest blue district in the state, 1st District Democratic Rep. Dina Titus of Las Vegas cruised to victory over underfunded Republican challenger Joyce Bentley.

Speaking Directly to the president she said “Listen up Mr. Trump! We’re coming for you!”

Republicans held on to the mostly rural 2nd District in northern Nevada, where Republican Rep. Mark Amodei was easily re-elected to the seat he has held since 2011.

The GOP retained some seats for the state Legislature, including electing brothel owner Dennis Hof to a seat in the state Assembly despite his death last month. County officials will appoint another Republican to replace him, but the GOP will return to the 2019 legislative session with a Democratic majority.

Beyond handing big wins to Democrats, Nevada voters on Tuesday rejected a hotly contested ballot initiative that would break up an energy provider monopoly in the state from utility NV Energy and instead create a “competitive retail energy market.” Nearly $100 million was spent on the constitutional amendment, with NV Energy spending millions to defeat it and casino company Las Vegas Sands spending millions to push its passage.

Voters approved five other statewide ballot initiatives: One that would speed up the pace and raise the bar on the state’s renewable energy generation; one that embedded crime victims’ rights in the state constitution; a measure making voter registration automatic when a person applies for a driver’s license or identification card; a measure granting tax exemption for prescription medical equipment such as oxygen tanks; and a measure exempting feminine hygiene products such as tampons and sanitary napkins from sales and use taxes.

In Lyon County, voters opted to continue allowing brothels to operate after rejecting a push to outlaw them. All four brothels in Lyon County were owned by Hof.