LAS VEGAS — A female political movement driven by backlash to President Donald Trump kicked off the year with a women's march in Nevada. Eleven months later, that activism helped women win key races across the state, including ousting an incumbent U.S. senator, electing a female-majority federal delegation and leaving the state poised for a potential female-majority Assembly.
Nevada Democratic women running in statewide and federal races emphasized diversity and the need to protect health care, abortion rights and a social safety net. They were also helped in the battleground state by a network of female-driven political activism.
"Plenty of people had their doubts that this victory would be ours tonight, but this is the story of this election cycle: Women stepping up to lead, to take back our country and take back the agenda in Washington," Democrat Jacky Rosen declared in her victory speech Tuesday after winning the U.S. Senate race in Nevada.
Rosen, a first-term congresswoman who ousted incumbent Republican Sen. Dean Heller, becomes the state's second-ever female U.S. senator and will serve alongside Democratic Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto, who was elected the nation's first Latina senator in 2016.
Rosen, a former computer programmer and synagogue president from the Las Vegas area, included female-focused messages on the campaign trail and highlighted Heller's alliance with the president and his eventual support for GOP plans to repeal the Affordable Care Act.
She also condemned Heller's support for Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh and his characterization of the sexual misconduct allegations against Kavanaugh as "smears" and a "hiccup" in the confirmation process.
Heller held a modest lead among Nevada's male voters, but Rosen was preferred decisively among women — 57 percent to 38 percent, according to AP VoteCast, a survey of the American electorate.
California Sen. Kamala Harris and Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, high-profile Democratic women and potential 2020 presidential candidates, campaigned on Rosen's behalf, as did abortion-rights groups like NARAL Pro-Choice America, Planned Parenthood and Emily's List.
Across the country, a record number of women were elected to the U.S. House, including its first two female Muslim members. A record number of 237 women ran for the House as major-party candidates, and 16 women ran for governor.
The surge in female candidates this cycle comes almost two years after an outpouring of women marched in the nation's capital and around the country in opposition to Trump's inauguration.
Activists behind the Women's March decided to move their January 2018 march to Las Vegas, saying Nevada's role as a strategic swing state that Democrat Hillary Clinton won in 2016 made it prime proving ground for turning the activism into political change.
They pledged to register 1 million voters and elect more progressive candidates across the country. In Nevada, activists and groups involved in the march worked to build momentum for Rosen and other female candidates.
Voters in Nevada picked another female Democrat, education philanthropist Susie Lee, to replace Rosen, and incumbent Democratic Rep. Dina Titus cruised to an easy re-election, putting women in four of the state's six seats in the U.S. House and Senate.
"Women were motivated to get the polls," Lee told The Associated Press on Wednesday. "Whether it was seeing that this Congress is so dysfunctional and broken, but more importantly, stripping away protections for people with pre-existing conditions."
She also said protecting Medicare and Social Security, finding a path for young "Dreamer" migrants to stay in the U.S. permanently and finding solutions to gun violence "are all incredibly important to women, especially mothers."
Jerry Lamb, an independent voter in Henderson, said he voted for Lee over Republican Danny Tarkanian in Nevada's 3rd Congressional District partly because he thinks it's good to have more women in elected office.
"I think we just need more women in politics, to balance it," the 72-year-old manager said. "They're more reasonable, and I think they can work across party lines a little bit better. I think their egos aren't as bad as ours."
Nevada voters on Tuesday picked Democrat Kate Marshall for state lieutenant governor.
Women were on the path to potentially make history in the Nevada Legislature by outnumbering their male counterparts.
Two female Assembly candidates and another woman seeking a state Senate seat were competing in races that were so tight, the AP has not been able to declare a winner. Should all three win and a woman be appointed to at least one of several House and Senate seats being vacated by men, Nevada would become the first state with a female-majority legislature.
Women picked up two seats on the Nevada Supreme Court on Tuesday, marking the first time in state history that women made up a majority of the state's high court, Nevada Supreme Court spokesman Michael Sommermeyer confirmed.