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Catherine Cortez Masto
Cortez Masto smiling
Official portrait, 2022
United States Senator
from Nevada
Assumed office
January 3, 2017
Serving with Jacky Rosen
Preceded by Harry Reid
Chair of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee
In office
January 3, 2019 – January 28, 2021
Leader Chuck Schumer
Preceded by Chris Van Hollen
Succeeded by Gary Peters
32nd Attorney General of Nevada
In office
January 1, 2007 – January 5, 2015
Governor Jim Gibbons
Brian Sandoval
Preceded by George Chanos
Succeeded by Adam Laxalt
Personal details
Born
Catherine Marie Cortez

(1964-03-29) March 29, 1964 (age 59)
Las Vegas, Nevada, U.S.
Political party Democratic
Spouse Paul Masto
Education University of Nevada, Reno (BS)
Gonzaga University (JD)

Catherine Marie Cortez Masto (born March 29, 1964) is an American lawyer and politician serving as the senior United States senator from Nevada, a seat she has held since 2017. A member of the Democratic Party, Cortez Masto served as the 32nd attorney general of Nevada from 2007 to 2015.

Cortez Masto graduated from the University of Nevada, Reno and Gonzaga University School of Law. She worked four years as a civil attorney in Las Vegas and two years as a criminal prosecutor for the U.S. Attorney's Office in Washington, D.C. before being elected Nevada attorney general in 2006, replacing George Chanos. Reelected in 2010, she was not eligible to run for a third term in 2014 because of lifetime term limits established by the Constitution of Nevada.

Cortez Masto narrowly defeated Republican Joe Heck in the 2016 United States Senate election in Nevada to replace outgoing Democratic senator Harry Reid, becoming the first woman elected to represent Nevada in the Senate and the first Latina elected to serve in the upper chamber. She took office on January 3, 2017, and became Nevada's senior senator in January 2019, when Dean Heller left the Senate following his defeat. She was narrowly reelected in 2022, defeating Republican nominee Adam Laxalt.

Early life and education

Cortez Masto was born in Las Vegas, Nevada, the daughter of Joanna (née Musso) and Manny Cortez. Her father, an attorney, was the long-time head of the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority and served as a member of the Clark County Commission. Now deceased, Manny Cortez had a long-standing friendship with Harry Reid. Her father is of Mexican descent, and her mother is of Italian ancestry. Her paternal grandfather, Eduardo Cortez, immigrated to Nevada from Chihuahua, Mexico.

Cortez Masto attended Ed W. Clark High School and earned a Bachelor of Science degree in finance from the University of Nevada, Reno in 1986 and a Juris Doctor from Gonzaga University School of Law in 1990.

Early career

Cortez Masto was admitted to the State Bar of Nevada in 1990, the U.S. District Court, District of Nevada in 1991, and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in 1994. Her career includes four years as a civil attorney in Las Vegas and two as a criminal prosecutor for the U.S. Attorney's Office in Washington, D.C. She also served as former Nevada Governor Bob Miller's chief of staff.

In November 2003, Cortez Masto was named executive vice chancellor of the Nevada System of Higher Education. There was some controversy, because she was hired directly by the chancellor, not the university system's board of regents; the chancellor said the regents had recommended that he hire an assistant, and in December the board voted unanimously to approve her annual salary of $215,000.

Nevada Attorney General

Attorney General Kamala D. Harris Announces Mortgage Investigation Alliance
Cortez Masto with then-California Attorney General (and later Senate colleague and vice president) Kamala Harris in December 2011

Cortez Masto was the Democratic nominee for state attorney general in 2006 and defeated Republican nominee Don Chairez 59% to 36%, with 5% for "None of these". She was reelected in 2010, defeating Republican Travis Barrick 52% to 36%, with 8% for Independent American candidate Joel F. Hansen and 4% for "None of these".

In 2009, Cortez Masto's office launched an investigation into Brian Krolicki, then Nevada's Republican lieutenant governor. Krolicki faced felony charges related to allegations that he mishandled the Nevada College Savings Trust Fund when he was state treasurer. During the investigation, the Las Vegas Review-Journal discovered that Cortez Masto's husband, Paul, planned to host a fundraising party for Robert S. Randazzo, a Democratic candidate for lieutenant governor, four days before the attorney general's office was scheduled to prosecute Krolicki. Cortez Masto said she was unaware of the fundraising party. The charges against Krolicki were ultimately dismissed in Clark County District Court. The dismissal of charges against Krolicki was regarded as a political setback for Cortez Masto, who, according to the Las Vegas Sun, "opened herself to charges of politicizing her office and prosecutorial misconduct".

In 2010, Cortez Masto's office began investigating Bank of America, accusing the company of raising interest rates on troubled borrowers. Her office sought to end Nevada's participation in a loan modification settlement in order to sue the bank over deceptive marketing and lending practices. Bank of America denied any wrongdoing. The lawsuit was settled in 2012 for $750 million for lien reductions and short sales.

Cortez Masto defended the state of Nevada in the lawsuit Sevcik v. Sandoval. The suit challenged Nevada's denial of same-sex marriage, as prohibited by the state's constitution and statutory law. After initially defending the same-sex marriage ban, Cortez Masto and the state abandoned their defense in light of a ruling by the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.

U.S. Senate

Catherine Cortez Masto being sworn-in as U.S. Senator by Vice President Joe Biden
Cortez Masto being sworn in as a U.S. senator by Vice President Joe Biden
Catherine Cortez Masto official portrait
Cortez Masto during the 115th Congress
Hassan and Cortez Masto 35144186454 32ad7dcc52 h
Maggie Hassan speaking with Cortez Masto at a Senate committee hearing in June 2017

Elections

2016

Cortez Masto declined to run for governor of Nevada in the 2014 election. When U.S. Senator Harry Reid decided not to run for reelection in the 2016 election, he endorsed her as his successor. Cortez Masto's campaign relied heavily on the political infrastructure Reid had assembled. Her Republican opponent was U.S. Representative Joe Heck.

Cortez Masto, who supports increased investments in renewable energy technology, was supported by the League of Conservation Voters.

Cortez Masto won 47% of the vote (520,658 votes) to Heck's 45% (494,427 votes). While Heck carried 16 of Nevada's counties and its equivalents, Cortez Masto won Clark County, home to over 70% of the state's population, by over 82,000 votes, over three times her statewide margin of 27,000 votes. She took office on January 3, 2017, becoming the first Latina in the U.S. Senate.

2022

On February 24, 2021, Cortez Masto announced that she would run for reelection in 2022. Among her challengers are her successor as attorney general and 2018 nominee for governor Adam Laxalt. On November 12, 2022, Cortez Masto successfully defeated Laxalt in the election, securing a second term.

Tenure

117th Congress (2021–23)

Cortez Masto was participating in the certification of the 2021 United States Electoral College vote count when Trump supporters stormed the U.S. Capitol. She was on the Senate floor, preparing to speak, when the Capitol was breached. Cortez Masto could hear the attackers just outside the chamber, which was secured by Capitol Police. As the attackers neared the chamber, she and her fellow senators were moved to an undisclosed secure location. Cortez Masto tweeted while sheltering in place, calling the attack "un-American and unacceptable".

Committee assignments

Caucus memberships

  • Congressional Hispanic Caucus
  • Congressional Caucus for Women's Issues

Political positions

As of October 2022, Cortez Masto has voted in line with Joe Biden's stated position 92.9% of the time.

Environment

Cortez Masto recognizes the existence of human-caused climate change and believes that the federal government should limit power plants' greenhouse gas emissions. She supports the growth of green jobs and increasing Nevada's reliance on solar power and other forms of clean energy. She opposes the use of Yucca Mountain as a nuclear waste repository.

Filibuster

Cortez Masto supports reforming the filibuster of the United States Senate into a talking filibuster.

Foreign policy

In October 2017, Cortez Masto condemned the genocide of the Rohingya Muslim minority in Myanmar and called for a stronger response to the crisis.

In April 2019, Cortez Masto was one of 34 senators to sign a letter criticizing Donald Trump for cutting off foreign assistance to El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras.

Gun policy

The National Rifle Association (NRA) has given Cortez Masto an F grade because of her support for gun control. During the 2016 election, the organization spent $1 million on an attack ad against her. Cortez Masto opposes allowing people on the terrorist watchlist to buy guns, saying that "makes no sense".

In response to the 2017 Las Vegas shooting, she co-sponsored a bill with Dianne Feinstein to ban bump stocks. She said that it can be a start toward decreasing gun violence and mass shootings.

Health care

Cortez Masto does not support the repeal of the Affordable Care Act (also known as Obamacare). She does support improving upon the act, which she has called "imperfect". She has co-sponsored the Marketplace Certainty Act to bring more stability to the health insurance marketplace.

Housing

In April 2019, Cortez Masto was one of 41 senators to sign a bipartisan letter to the housing subcommittee asking for increased funding for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development's Section 4 Capacity Building.

Immigration

In April 2018, Cortez Masto was one of five senators to send a letter to acting director of ICE Thomas Homan about the standards the agency uses to determine how to detain pregnant women.

In June 2019, following the Housing and Urban Development Department's confirmation that DACA recipients did not meet eligibility for federal backed loans, Cortez Masto and 11 other senators introduced the Home Ownership Dreamers Act, legislation that mandated that the federal government was not authorized to deny mortgage loans backed by the Federal Housing Administration, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, or the Agriculture Department solely due to applicants' immigration status.

In July 2019, Cortez Masto and 15 other Senate Democrats introduced the Protecting Sensitive Locations Act, which mandated that ICE agents get approval from a supervisor ahead of engaging in enforcement actions at sensitive locations, except in special circumstances, and that agents receive annual training in addition to being required to report annually on enforcement actions in those locations.

LGBT rights

Cortez Masto supports same-sex marriage.

Personal life

Cortez Masto lives in Las Vegas with her husband, Paul Masto, a retired United States Secret Service special agent. She is Roman Catholic.

Electoral history

2010 Attorney General election in Nevada
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Democratic Catherine Cortez Masto 372,010 52.8%
Republican Travis Barrick 251,269 35.7%
N/A None of these Candidates 26,072 3.7%
Independent Joel Hansen 54,980 7.8%
Total votes 100%
Democrat hold
2016 United States Senate election in Nevada – Democratic primary
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic Catherine Cortez Masto 81,944 81.0%
Democratic Allen Rheinhart 5,645 6.0%
Democratic None of these candidates 5,498 5.0%
Democratic Liddo Susan O'Briant 4,834 5.0%
Democratic Bobby Mahendra 3,760 3.0%
Total votes 101,681 100.0%
2016 United States Senate election in Nevada
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Democratic Catherine Cortez Masto 521,994 47.10% −3.19%
Republican Joe Heck 495,079 44.67% +0.12%
N/A None of these Candidates 42,257 3.81% +1.56%
Independent American Tom Jones 17,128 1.55% +1.11%
Independent Thomas Sawyer 14,208 1.28% N/A
Independent Tony Gumina 10,740 0.97% N/A
Independent Jarrod Williams 6,888 0.62% N/A
Total votes 1,108,294 100.0% N/A
Democrat hold
2022 United States Senate election in Nevada
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Democratic Catherine Cortez Masto (incumbent) 498,316 48.81% +1.71%
Republican Adam Laxalt 490,388 48.04% +3.37%
None of These Candidates 12,441 1.22% -2.59%
Independent Barry Lindemann 8,075 0.79% N/A
Libertarian Neil Scott 6,422 0.63% N/A
Independent American Barry Rubinson 5,208 0.51% -1.04%
Total votes 1,020,850 100.0%
Democrat hold

See also

Kids robot.svg In Spanish: Catherine Cortez Masto para niños

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