Nevada voters elected a Democratic governor for the first time in two decades Tuesday, picking Las Vegas-area county commissioner Steve Sisolak over Republican state attorney general Adam Laxalt in a tight, high-stakes race.
The two candidates spent more than $22 million combined in 2018 alone in a race that featured President Donald Trump as friend and foe.
"I am honored to be elected as Nevada's next governor," Sisolak told The Associated Press. "Today, Nevadans stood up and declared that it is time to bring people together, to prioritize our schools, our health care, and our jobs, and to get things done. As governor, that is exactly what I will do. I look forward to getting to work fighting for all of Nevada's families."
Sisolak, 64, repeatedly campaigned on a pledge to stand up to Trump, who backed Laxalt, the state's top prosecutor since 2015.
Sisolak chairs the Clark County Commission, which oversees the Las Vegas Strip and surrounding areas. In that role, he rose to prominence following the 2017 mass shooting on the Strip, starting an online fundraiser that amassed millions for victims.
Nevada's gubernatorial race was a top priority for Democrats looking to flip control of governors' mansions across the country Tuesday.
Popular and moderate Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval is term-limited.
Nevada is a swing state that's trending blue. Its governor's office is one of 26 held by Republicans that was up for grabs Tuesday and one of eight where Hillary Clinton won the presidential vote over President Donald Trump in 2016.
The governor-elect will now oversee the redrawing of congressional and state legislative districts after the next U.S. Census.
"Today, people from every corner of the state stood up and turned out to say, 'It's time to bring people together,'" Sisolak told an enthusiastic crowd gathered at a casino-resort ballroom on the Las Vegas Strip. "It's time to prioritize our schools, our jobs and our health care. ... It's time to get things done."
Dozens of members of the powerful pro-Democratic Culinary Union were among the crowd. Sisolak and some in the crowd briefly chanted, "Union! Union!"
Sisolak said he had received a congratulatory phone call from Laxalt for a hard-fought campaign and promised the crowd and those watching his speech on TV that he will work his "heart out" to earn their support regardless of who they voted for.
"Right here in Nevada we are going to prove that we won't be divided by partisan politics in Washington," he said. "We will not be divided by North versus South, rural or urban. We will be one Nevada working together and that starts right now."
Paramedics were called to his casino-resort suite earlier in the night after his 92-year-old mother had a medical episode.
Laxalt, a former U.S. Navy lieutenant, is popular on the right and proved his ability to win statewide when he emerged victorious in the 2014 attorney general race with a difference of fewer than 5,000 votes over his opponent. Billionaire casino mogul Sheldon Adelson and conservative advocacy group Americans for Prosperity backed his campaign.
Laxalt during the campaign cited sanctuary cities and burdensome regulations as ill-considered California policies that Nevada should avoid.
"Unfortunately we came up short tonight. ... I don't have to tell you how difficult this is," Laxalt told about 200 backers at a Reno hotel-casino ballroom. "This was our campaign, not just my campaign. ... People can take heart we left it all on the field."
Sisolak is a businessman who spent a decade on the Nevada Board of Regents, which oversees the state's public higher education system, before becoming a county commissioner in 2009. He received the endorsements of former President Barack Obama, former Vice President Joe Biden and former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder.
Last month, Obama and Biden separately campaigned for Nevada's Democratic ticket, while Trump and Vice President Mike Pence stumped for Laxalt.
The ballot also included three other gubernatorial hopefuls: Russell Best with the Independent American Party, Libertarian Jared Lord and independent Ryan Bundy, who led armed standoffs against federal land management agents in Nevada and Oregon.
Associated Press writers Marquis Ealy in Las Vegas and Scott Sonner in Reno, Nevada, contributed to this report.