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Political Note #365  Catherine Cortez Masto NV US Senate

2022                            General Election

Look West.

Washington: Democrat Patty Murray elected 1992

Democrat Maria Cantwell elected 2000

Oregon:        Democrat Ron Wyden elected 1996

Democrat Jeff Merkley elected 2008

California:     Democrat Dianne Feinstein elected 1992

Democrat Alex Padilla appointed 2021

Nevada:       Democrat Catherine Cortez Masto elected 2016

Democrat Jacky Rosen elected 2018

Arizona.         Democrat Krysten Sinema elected 2018

Democrat Mark Kelly elected 2020

New Mexico  Democrat Martin Heinrich elected 2012

Democrat Ben Ray Lujan elected 2020

Colorado        Democrat Michael Bennet elected 2008

Democrat John Hickenlooper elected 2020

This is a contiguous bloc of states forming a kind of reverse J.  It is a world of difference from, say, 30 years ago.  In 1990, the Washington Senate delegation was divided, the Oregon delegation was Republican, the California delegation was divided, the Nevada delegation was Democratic, the New Mexico delegation was divided, and the Colorado delegation was divided.  This solid bloc of contiguous western states is an essential part of the Democratic 50-50 majority. If Democrats are to gain a more sustainable majority in the Senate, they need to begin by protecting that solid bloc.  The most vulnerable of those Western Democrats up for election in 2022 is Catherine Cortez Masto.

Catherine Cortez Masto learned about politics from her father.  Manny Cortez was a political force in Nevada.  His father had immigrated to the US from Mexico after World War II. Manny’s life in Las Vegas coincided with Las Vegas’s enormous growth.

Manny Cortez retired in 2004 as the head of the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, over which he had presided for 13 years.  Las Vegas is a  convention city.  Head of the Convention and Visitors Authority was a very big job.  Manny had graduated from high school and from Nevada Southern University (Now UNLV), worked in the district attorney’s office, the public defender’s office, and then got appointed as a member of the state taxi authority.  He was elected to the Clark County Board of Commissioners (Clark County includes Las Vegas) in 1976 and retired from that role in 1991 in anticipation of heading the Convention Authority.  In 1970, Las Vegas’s population was 125,000 (In 1900 the population was 25.).  In 2000, it was almost 500,000. Now it is 650,000.  In 1970, Hispanics were less than 5% of the city’s population.  By 2000, they were almost 25%.  Now they are well over 30% of the city’s population.

Catherine Cortez Masto is her father’s daughter.  She went to local schools, to high school in Las Vegas when there was still only one high school in town, and to the University of Nevada, Reno. For law school, she went to Gonzaga in Spokane, WA.  She returned home to clerk for Judge Michael Wendell of Nevada’s 8th District.  After some time in private practice, she joined the staff of Nevada’s Governor Bob Mitchell, eventually becoming his chief of staff.  While in that role, she met her husband Paul Masto a member of the US Secret Service with whom she coordinated logistics for a trip to Nevada by President Bill Clinton.

Catherine Cortez Masto spent two years working in Washington as an Assistant US Attorney, then returned to Nevada to become Assistant County Manager for Clark County.  In 2006, after the then Attorney General was appointed a federal judge, she ran for and was elected as Nevada’s Attorney General.

As Attorney General, Catherine Cortez Masto demonstrated her workmanlike approach.  She outlined four priorities:  elder abuse (particularly recalling her grandparents having been the target of a scam), sex trafficking (this is Las Vegas), the meth epidemic (though Nevada was not among the most beleaguered states), and domestic violence (Nevada is one of the most problematic states).  She led a task force to address meth manufacturing and sales, sought and obtained legislation for authority to address elder fraud and abuse, sought legislation to make sex trafficking a felony in Nevada and to allow victims to sue their victimizers.  She created a team that developed recommendations for law enforcement, District Attorneys, and local government to address domestic violence.

Catherine Cortez Masto was elected by 13 points in 2006, by 17 points in 2010.  She did have one embarrassment prior to the 2010 election.  Her husband had scheduled a fund raiser for the Democratic candidate for Lt. Governor a few days before the Attorney General’s office began prosecuting the Republican Lt. Governor.  Neither spouse apparently knew what the other was doing.  The prosecution did not go far; Catherine Cortez Masto was unhindered in her run for reelection or in her next step by that embarrassment.

When Harry Reid decided to retire from the Senate, he endorsed Catherine Cortez Masto to replace him.  She won the nomination with over 80% of the vote.  The general election was closer.  She defeated Republican Congressman Joe Heck by 2.5 points – slightly less than 27,000 votes.  She was the first Latina elected to the US Senate,  the first woman Nevada elected to the US Senate.

Follow the money to see who supports Catherine Cortes Masto and who opposes her.  She received support from the League of Conservation voters, the End Citizens United PAC, Planned Parenthood, and Emily’s List. The NRA was among the larger spenders opposed to her.  As Attorney General, she had investigated and sued Bank of America for raising interest rates on borrowers who already had difficulty in repaying their loans.

In the Senate, she has served on the Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs, the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, and (as part of her focus on getting this done), the Committee on Rules and Administration.  Her caucus memberships reflect her core constituencies – the Congressional Hispanic Caucus and the Congressional Caucus for Women’s Issues.

Her central interests sometimes coincide, as they have done on immigration.  She took issue with the Trump administration’s detention of pregnant women immigrants.  She supported DACA recipients’ eligibility for housing loans and for greater oversight of ICE’s enforcement of immigration laws in sensitive locations.

Catherine Cortez Masto is one of the Democratic Senator workers.  We need keep her working for the elderly, for the needy, for women; for fairness.  We have four Democrats who Cook describes as being vulnerable of which she is one. Start supporting each of them now.  Early preparation is the best defense.  November 2022 is not that far away.

The Cook Report projects the following incumbent Democratic Senators as Likely, or Leaning Democrat for 2022 rather than Solidly Democratic. = 

Arizona                     Mark Kelly (Likely D)

Georgia                     Raphael Warnock (Lean D)

Nevada                      Catherine Cortez Maestro (Likely D)

New Hampshire      Maggie Hassan (Likely D)

There are no Democratic retirements.

As we learn who the Democratic candidates are, we can focus on them defeating Republican Targets. First protect incumbents, then win some Republican seats.

Alabama                   Richard Shelby is retiring.  The seat is Open (Solid R)

Florida                       Marco Rubio is a target (Likely R)

Missouri                    Roy Blunt is retiring. The seat is Open.  (Solid R)

North Carolina        Richard Burr is retiring. The seat is Open.  (Toss Up)

Ohio                           Rob Portman is retiring. The seat is Open.  (Lean R)

Pennsylvania          Pat Toomey is retiring. The seat is Open.  (Toss Up)

Wisconsin                Ron Johnson is a target (Lean R)

Organizations to support

 The Democratic Senate Campaign Committee (DSCC)  The campaign arm of the Democratic US Senators.

 The Democratic National Committee (DNC).  The official organization of the Democratic Party.

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