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May 27, 2024

Former Nevada attorney general to run for Reid’s Senate seat

Nevadans For The Common Good

Steve Marcus

Nevada Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto speaks at a news conference at the State Legislature on Monday, Feb. 11, 2013, in Carson City.

Updated Wednesday, April 8, 2015 | 3:59 p.m.

Former Nevada Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto has kicked off her campaign to run for Harry Reid's Senate seat in 2016.

Cortez Masto, a Democrat, made the announcement in a mass email sent to supporters Wednesday.

She left her new job as the executive vice chancellor for the Nevada System of Higher Education on Tuesday to launch her campaign, which already has a website and a Twitter account​.

Cortez Masto was elected attorney general in 2006 and was re-elected in 2010. She reached term limits last year and has since been succeeded by Republican Adam Laxalt.

While serving as attorney general, Cortez Masto pushed for legislation toughening punishment in criminal cases involving women, children and the elderly. In 2013, she spearheaded an effort to pass a law that gave victims of sex trafficking crimes the right to sue their abusers.

The news comes less than two weeks after Reid announced he would not run for a sixth term.

After his announcement, Reid immediately made it known Cortez Masto was his favorite for the seat.

“She has a great resume. She has a background that is significantly powerful. I hope she decides to run. If she does, I will help her,” Reid said.

Anyone who runs against Cortez Masto will “be a loser,” Reid continued in a candid interview on Nevada Public Radio.

If elected, Cortez Masto would become the first Latina to take office in the U.S. Senate.

“That’s not just good for Nevada, that would be a huge accomplishment for our country,” said Andres Ramirez, a political consultant and former Reid staffer. “Latinos played a very large role in her election in 2006 and in 2010. She has great name recognition.”

One-third of Nevada's population is Latino. In 2010, Reid won his final re-election with 90 percent of the Latino vote, according to research website Latino Decisions.

Rep. Dina Titus, a Las Vegas Democrat, is also considering a run for the seat, which would mean an unwanted Democratic primary between Titus and Reid Democrats. Titus could not be reached for comment Wednesday.

National Democrats have made clear who their favorite is. The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee endorsed Cortez Masto hours after she announced, in a bid to avoid a primary.

Emily’s list, a political action committee that aims to back Democratic women running for office, has hinted that it will also endorse Cortez Masto, saying it’s “past time to elect the first Latina to the U.S. Senate.”

No Republicans have announced their intention to run yet.

Cortez Masto comes from a political pedigree of the highest level in Southern Nevada. Her father, Manny Cortez, headed the Las Vegas Visitors and Convention Authority for 13 years, and is credited with revitalizing the Strip in the '90s while mentoring many power players in Nevada politics. He died in 2006.

Democratic insiders praise Cortez Masto's relatively unscathed record as attorney general. But in 2008, when then-Republican Lt. Gov. Brian Krolicki announced he would be challenging Reid for his 2010 Senate race, her office controversially indicted Krolicki on charges a judge later threw out. Krolicki never made a run for the Senate, and some of his Republican supporters think he could challenge Cortez Masto this time around.

In the battle for control of U.S. Senate, Reid was considered one of the most vulnerable Democrats up for re-election in 2016. National Republicans say his retirement doesn't change the race's competitiveness in a state that is also a key battleground for presidential politics. They point to the fact that Cortez Masto hasn't had a tough election battle since she joined public office.

Still, analysts say the odds are in her favor. A presidential election year will likely lure minorities out to vote, and along with Reid’s endorsement, Cortez Masto should benefit from her demographic background and political record.

“I think her candidacy and the dynamics of the race favor the Democrats,” UNLV political science professor David Damore said. “But there’s a lot that can happen between now and then.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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