Tuesday, June 25, 2019 | 2 a.m.
As Democratic presidential candidates prepare for their first debates of the 2020 campaign on the arduous road to the party’s nomination, Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto offers this advice: Ignore the Latino population at your own peril.
Cortez Masto, the former state attorney general who in 2016 became the country’s first Latina senator, spoke with reporters Monday about the importance of the Latino electorate, one of the key groups candidates must win over to be successful in Nevada.
“This was true, I saw it firsthand in my race when I ran in 2015 for the Senate, and I’ll be the first to tell you I could not have done it without those (different) populations, particularly the Latino population in Nevada,” said Cortez Masto, D-Nev.
According to the Pew Research Center, 19% of eligible Nevada voters in 2018 were Hispanic. That ranges from 30.5% in the 1st Congressional District, which makes up most of the Las Vegas metropolitan area, to 13.5% in the 3rd Congressional District, which makes up the southern tip of the state. Of Nevada’s estimated 2.03 million voters, the 387,000 eligible Latino voters represent a sizable bloc.
Cortez Masto said that Latino voters in the state were watching the border crisis carefully, calling the current state of immigration an important issue for many.
“Remember: A lot of the families are either first generation or their kids are Dreamers, and they’re paying attention to what’s happening at the border,” she said.
She stressed, however, that Latino voters were not focused solely on the border, and that candidates would have to play to a wide variety of issues, much like they would with any group of voters.
With the race still in its early stages, no candidate has broken out of the pack as a favorite with Nevada’s Latinos, Cortez Masto observed.
“I don’t think anyone has any particular advantage,” she said.
She stressed the necessity of candidates coming to Nevada early to engage with voters rather than waiting until close to the caucus.
“If you get in there early and you talk about the issues that matter to them, then they are more willing to see your sincerity and trust you and know you,” she said. “And once they have engaged with you, they’re more willing to go into that booth and support you. But you’ve got to show up.”
Nevada’s senior senator said she would not endorse any candidate before the Nevada caucuses in February 2020.
The Latino vote on a national level has remained stable, but it rarely breaks 50% participation, according to Pew. Yet, Cortez Masto said she had seen participation in the voting process among Latinos grow consistently throughout Nevada since she was a child.
“Every election cycle more and more (they) are registered, and more and more they are coming out to vote,” she said.
She praised the Nevada Democratic Party for its outreach to Latino voters, which has helped bolster support for the Democratic ticket.
“Everybody that is working in the Democratic Party, their focus constantly engaging with the community and registering people and making sure that they’re coming out to vote,” she said.