Catherine Cortez Masto Profile
written byAbby Kingsley
art by Erin Blanding
Most people don’t know who Catherine Cortez Masto is, but they should. Catherine Cortez Masto is the first Latina Senator and the first female Senator from Nevada. She is undoubtedly a trailblazer, but Senator Cortez Masto is also an unyielding advocate and fighter for her constituents and for justice.
This past summer, I had the honor of working (remotely) in her DC office. I saw firsthand the determination and grace she brings to the office of Senator in order to represent and help the people who elected her. Cortez Masto embodies the best that politicians have to offer. She brings compassion and principle to the halls of the Senate where both these qualities are lacking.
“Senator Cortez Masto's achievements are sources of inspiration for the latinx community in this country, and I wanted to work for a Senator that's part of a community that I identify with,” said Columbia junior and former intern, Gabriel Gonzalez, “Senator Cortez Masto has a reputation on the Hill as being a senator that's there to do good work on behalf of her citizens, and she really takes her constituents' views into consideration.”
Senator Cortez Masto began her career as a civil attorney and as a criminal prosecutor for the U.S. Attorneys Office in D.C. She moved back home where she became involved in Nevada politics, eventually serving as Chief of Staff in the governor’s office and then in the office managing Nevada’s System of Higher Education. In 2006, Cortez Masto won her bid for Nevada’s Attorney General where she served for 8 years. In 2016, she replaced Harry Reid to become Nevada’s first female and the first Latina in the US Senate.
Her office’s mission is clear: make life easier for Nevadans. While simple in phrase, this is a monumental task. How does Senator Cortez Masto know what Nevadans want and need from their Senator? The Senator knows what Nevadans want because she takes the time to listen.
Former Intern Connor Leeming said, “Senator Cortez Masto approaches her diverse constituency with attentiveness. In making decisions, Cortez Masto often tries to hear directly from Nevadans and seeks for bipartisan solutions.”
In the Senate (and politics, generally) there are two types of people: those who work for the attention and those who work for their constituents. Senator Cortez Masto is the latter. She cares deeply about all her constituents from Native Americans on remote reservations to immigrants toiling away in Las Vegas casinos to rural Nevadans facing the opioid epidemic first hand. She cares about those who voted against her as much as those that voted for her. In pre-pandemic times, she would regularly host listening sessions on issues Nevadans cared most about including the Affordable Care Act, legislation affecting Dreamers, and protecting public lands. First and foremost, Cortez Masto views her role as Senator to elevate the voices of her constituents.
How did Cortez Masto get where she is today? Her family history and values has driven a lifetime of public service.
Cortez Masto has described her family story and her victory as the first Latina in the US Senate as the American Dream. Her paternal grandfather, Edward Cortez, was born in Chihuahua, Mexico. He immigrated to the United States with only a grade-school education and eventually settled in Las Vegas.
Her father, Manny Cortez, worked diligently as a parking attendant on the Vegas Strip until eventually moving to government work as an investigator in the District Attorney’s office. Manny Cortez then worked in politics and served the Las Vegas community as a Clark County Commissioner. Senator Cortez Masto grew up with strong values of public service.
“Can you imagine my grandfather if he were alive today and saw his granddaughter who was the attorney general for eight years in the state now running to be the first Latina ever elected to the United States Senate? That’s incredible,” Senator Cortez Masto noted the personal significance of her bid for US Senate in 2016.
In her first two years in office, the Senator obtained $468 million in funding for Nevada.
In 2018, she remarked, “I’m proud of what we’ve been able to accomplish for the Silver State,” said Senator Cortez Masto, “From making the investments that ensure Nevada continues to be the Innovation State, to providing our military and law enforcement with the necessary tools to keep Nevadans safe, I have worked across the aisle to pass legislation that puts Nevada and its people first.”
During her time in office, she has worked to protect Nevada’s seniors, alleviate the opioid crisis, expand access to healthcare, increase support for small business, help victims of sex trafficking, reduce gun violence and protect Nevada’s natural resources.
Catherine Cortez Masto is the first Latina to serve as a US Senator, but she has taken this historic position and turned it into much more. She is a forceful voice who works diligently each day to help the Nevadans who have trusted her with their voice and their vote.