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Catherine Cortez Masto

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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 byHarry Reid
Chair of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee
In office
January 3, 2019 – January 28, 2021
LeaderChuck Schumer
Preceded byChris Van Hollen
Succeeded byGary Peters
32nd Attorney General of Nevada
In office
January 1, 2007 – January 5, 2015
GovernorJim Gibbons
Brian Sandoval
Preceded byGeorge Chanos
Succeeded byAdam Laxalt
Personal details
Catherine Marie Cortez

(1964-03-29) March 29, 1964 (age 60)
Las Vegas, Nevada, U.S.
Political partyDemocratic
SpousePaul Masto
EducationUniversity of Nevada, Reno (BS)
Gonzaga University (JD)
WebsiteSenate website

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.[1] 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.[2]

Early life and education[edit]

Cortez Masto was born in Las Vegas, Nevada, the daughter of Joanna (née Musso) and Manny Cortez.[3] Her father, an attorney, was the longtime head of the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority and served as a member of the Clark County Commission.[4] Now deceased, Manny Cortez had a long-standing friendship with Harry Reid.[5] Her father was of Mexican descent, and her mother is of Italian ancestry.[6][7] Her paternal grandfather, Eduardo Cortez, immigrated to Nevada from Chihuahua, Mexico.[8][9][10]

Cortez Masto attended Ed W. Clark High School,[11] 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.[12]

Early career[edit]

Cortez Masto was admitted to the State Bar of Nevada in 1990, the U.S. District Court, the 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.[5]

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.[13][14]

Nevada Attorney General[edit]

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".[15] 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".[16]

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.[17] The charges against Krolicki were ultimately dismissed in Clark County District Court.[18] 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".[19]

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.[20] The lawsuit was settled in 2012 for $750 million for lien reductions and short sales.[21]

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,[22] Cortez Masto and the state abandoned their defense in light of a ruling by the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.[23]

U.S. Senate[edit]

Cortez Masto being sworn in as a U.S. senator by Vice President Joe Biden
Cortez Masto during the 115th Congress
Maggie Hassan speaking with Cortez Masto at a Senate committee hearing in June 2017



Cortez Masto declined to run for governor of Nevada in the 2014 election.[24] When U.S. Senator Harry Reid decided not to run for reelection in the 2016 election, he endorsed her as his successor.[5] Cortez Masto's campaign relied heavily on the political infrastructure Reid had assembled.[25] 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.[26] She was also financially supported by pro-choice groups, such as EMILY's List and Planned Parenthood, and by End Citizens United, a political action committee seeking to overturn Citizens United v. FEC.[27]

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.[1] She took office on January 3, 2017, becoming the first Latina in the U.S. Senate.[28]


On February 24, 2021, Cortez Masto announced that she would run for reelection in 2022.[29] Among her challengers was her successor as attorney general and 2018 nominee for governor Adam Laxalt.[30] Cortez Masto trailed in many polls and was widely seen as the most vulnerable incumbent Democratic U.S. senator. But she narrowly defeated Laxalt, securing a second term.[2][31]


117th Congress (2021–23)[edit]

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.[32] Cortez Masto tweeted while sheltering in place, calling the attack "un-American and unacceptable".[33]

Committee assignments[edit]

Caucus memberships[edit]

Political positions[edit]

As of October 2022, Cortez Masto has voted in line with Joe Biden's stated position 92.9% of the time.[35]


Cortez Masto cosponsored the bipartisan STATES Act proposed in the 115th U.S. Congress by senators Elizabeth Warren and Cory Gardner that would exempt individuals or corporations in compliance with state cannabis laws from federal enforcement of the Controlled Substances Act.[36]


Cortez Masto recognizes the existence of human-caused climate change and believes that the federal government should limit power plants' greenhouse gas emissions.[37] 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.[38]


Cortez Masto supports reforming the filibuster of the United States Senate into a talking filibuster.[39][40][41]

Foreign policy[edit]

In October 2017, Cortez Masto condemned the genocide of the Rohingya Muslim minority in Myanmar and called for a stronger response to the crisis.[42]

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.[43]

Gun policy[edit]

The NRA Political Victory Fund (NRA-PVF) has given Cortez Masto an F grade because of her support for gun control.[44] During the 2016 election, the organization spent $1 million on an attack ad against her.[45] Cortez Masto opposes allowing people on the terrorist watchlist to buy guns, saying that "makes no sense".[46]

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.[47]

Health care[edit]

Cortez Masto does not support the repeal of the Affordable Care Act (also known as Obamacare).[37] 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.[48]


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.[49]


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.[50]

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.[51]

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.[52]

LGBT rights[edit]

Cortez Masto supports same-sex marriage.[37]

Reproductive rights[edit]

Cortez Masto supports legalized abortion.[37] In the 2016 election, she was endorsed by Planned Parenthood and funded by their action fund.[53]

She does not believe that companies should be allowed to withhold coverage for birth control based on religious beliefs.[37]

Personal life[edit]

Cortez Masto lives in Las Vegas with her husband, Paul Masto, a retired United States Secret Service special agent.[54] She is Roman Catholic.[55][56][57]

Electoral history[edit]

2010 Attorney General election in Nevada[58]
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%
Democratic 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[59]
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
Democratic hold
2022 United States Senate election in Nevada[60]
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%
Democratic hold

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "2016 Nevada Senate Election Results". Politico. Retrieved November 8, 2016.
  2. ^ a b Korecki, Natasha (November 13, 2022). "Cortez Masto defeats Laxalt in Nevada, handing Democrats control of the Senate". NBC News. Retrieved November 13, 2022.
  3. ^ Las Vegas High School Alumni Association: "MANUEL J. CORTEZ (Class of 1956)" retrieved February 15, 2016.
  4. ^ "Former Las Vegas convention chief Cortez dies at 67". Las Vegas Sun. June 19, 2006. Retrieved July 26, 2016.
  5. ^ a b c Drusch, Andrea (March 27, 2015). "Meet the Woman Harry Reid Wants to Replace Him in the Senate". National Journal. Archived from the original on January 14, 2016. Retrieved February 5, 2016.
  6. ^ "Catherine Cortez Masto for Senate — Catherine Cortez Masto Launches Spanish-Language". Catherinecortezmasto.com. March 14, 2016. Archived from the original on October 26, 2016. Retrieved May 1, 2017.
  7. ^ Trout, Keith (August 14, 2015). "Senate candidate attends Jefferson-Jackson Day Dinner". Reno Gazette Journal. Retrieved September 19, 2020. A Las Vegas native and University of Nevada, Reno graduate, Cortez Masto said she is half-Mexican and half-Sicilian and represents the American dream, noting she was the first in her family to attend college
  8. ^ Everett, Burgess (September 23, 2016). "Cortez Masto seizes on 'hispandering' attack". Politico. Retrieved October 13, 2016.
  9. ^ Snyder, Riley (September 23, 2016). "Nevada Republican Senate hopeful Joe Heck launches first TV ad of general election campaign". KTNV. Retrieved October 13, 2016.
  10. ^ "Manuel Cortez-Obituary". Review Journal Obituaries. September 23, 2016. Retrieved August 4, 2021.
  11. ^ Kimmel, Jimmy [@jimmykimmel] (November 4, 2022). "Nevada, seriously…" (Tweet). Retrieved November 4, 2022 – via Twitter.
  12. ^ "Alumni Profile: Catherine Cortez Masto". Gonzaga School of Law. March 19, 2014. Archived from the original on February 6, 2016. Retrieved February 5, 2016.
  13. ^ McCabe, Francis (November 25, 2014). "Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto named to higher ed post". Las Vegas Review Journal. Retrieved February 5, 2016.
  14. ^ Barnes, Bethany (December 16, 2014). "Regents approve Masto's $215,000 salary as executive vice chancellor". Las Vegas Review-Journal. Las Vegas, NV. Archived from the original on February 4, 2017. Retrieved February 4, 2017.
  15. ^ "State Results: Attorney General". Reno Gazette-Journal. Reno, NV. November 9, 2006. p. 7 – via Newspapers.com.
  16. ^ "Results: Congress, Statewide Offices; Attorney General". Reno Gazette-Journal. Reno, NV. November 9, 2006. p. 7 – via Newspapers.com.
  17. ^ Vogel, Ed (November 24, 2009). "Krolicki case might take twist". Las Vegas Review Journal. Retrieved February 5, 2018.
  18. ^ McCoy, Cara (December 7, 2009). "Charges dismissed against Lt. Gov. Brian Krolicki". Las Vegas Sun. Retrieved February 19, 2016.
  19. ^ Coolican, J. Patrick (December 8, 2009). "Cortez Masto's shining star dims after Krolicki decision". Las Vegas Sun. Retrieved February 19, 2016.
  20. ^ Morgenson, Gretchen (August 30, 2011). "Nevada Says Bank Broke Mortgage Settlement". The New York Times. Retrieved November 5, 2013.
  21. ^ Rosenblatt, Joel (February 9, 2012). "Bank of America Settles With Nevada Attorney General Masto". Bloomberg Business. Retrieved February 5, 2016.
  22. ^ Whaley, Sean (January 22, 2014). "Nevada legal brief defends state's same-sex marriage ban". Las Vegas Review Journal. Retrieved February 5, 2016.
  23. ^ Ford, Zack (February 11, 2014). "Nevada Abandons Its Defense Of Same-Sex Marriage Ban". ThinkProgress. Archived from the original on May 10, 2016. Retrieved February 5, 2016.
  24. ^ Doughman, Andrew (September 19, 2013). "Cortez Masto: I'm not running for governor". Las Vegas Sun. Archived from the original on September 21, 2013. Retrieved September 20, 2013.
  25. ^ Kane, Paul (November 17, 2015). "Harry Reid, retiring but betting big on Nevada for Democratic Senate majority". The Washington Post. Retrieved February 5, 2016.
  26. ^ Botkin, Ben (September 25, 2016). "Climate change becoming increasingly visible campaign issue in Nevada". Las Vegas Review-Journal. Retrieved October 4, 2016.
  27. ^ Botkin, Ben (October 2, 2016). "Outside spending groups pump millions into political races in Nevada". Las Vegas Review-Journal. Retrieved October 4, 2016.
  28. ^ Philipps, Dave (November 9, 2016). "Catherine Cortez Masto Wins Nevada to Become First Latina Senator". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved November 9, 2016.
  29. ^ Sanchez, Humberto (February 24, 2021). "Cortez Masto launches 2022 re-election bid". The Nevada Independent. Retrieved March 8, 2021.
  30. ^ Steinhauser, Paul (August 17, 2021). "Nevada Senate race: Laxalt launches Republican run in state that is a top GOP 2022 target". Fox News.
  31. ^ Weisman, Jonathan (November 12, 2022). "Democrats Hold the Senate, as Cortez Masto Ekes Out a Victory in Nevada". The New York Times. Retrieved November 13, 2022.
  32. ^ Charns, David (January 8, 2021). "'They said, 'move, move, move,' Nevada's Cortez-Masto details Capitol riot". KLAS. Retrieved January 14, 2021.
  33. ^ McGinness, Brett (January 6, 2021). "Pro-Trump rioters in U.S. Capitol: Where are Nevada's delegates? What we know now". Reno Gazette Journal. Retrieved January 14, 2021.
  34. ^ "Members". Congressional Hispanic Caucus. Archived from the original on May 15, 2018. Retrieved May 15, 2018.
  35. ^ Bycoffe, Anna Wiederkehr and Aaron (April 22, 2021). "Does Your Member Of Congress Vote With Or Against Biden?". FiveThirtyEight. Retrieved October 26, 2022.
  36. ^ Sadler, John (May 10, 2019). "The status of marijuana lounges, banking and legislation in Nevada". Las Vegas Sun. Retrieved November 9, 2022. On a federal level, Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto, D-Nev., has co-sponsored legislation that would allow marijuana businesses in legal states to bank without fear of money laundering accusation.
  37. ^ a b c d e "Joe Heck vs. Catherine Cortez Masto: Nonpartisan Candidate Guide For 2016 Nevada Senate Race". Huffington Post. October 11, 2016. Retrieved October 5, 2017.
  38. ^ Akers, Mick (February 24, 2017). "Cortez Masto, clean energy advocates cite concerns about EPA under Pruitt". Las Vegas Sun. Retrieved October 5, 2017.
  39. ^ "Nevada Sen. Cortez Masto on why the filibuster rule should change". NPR.org. Retrieved June 27, 2022.
  40. ^ "Cortez Masto Calls for Filibuster Reform | U.S. Senator Catherine Cortez Masto of Nevada". www.cortezmasto.senate.gov. Retrieved June 27, 2022.
  41. ^ "Nevada Democrat Catherine Cortez Masto Is Latest To Back Filibuster Reform". HuffPost. March 9, 2021. Retrieved June 27, 2022.
  42. ^ Hussein, Fatima (October 22, 2017). "Sen. Todd Young urges action to end Muslim genocide in Myanmar". IndyStar. Retrieved March 5, 2019.
  43. ^ Frazin, Rachel (April 4, 2019). "More than 30 Senate Dems ask Trump to reconsider Central American aid cuts". The Hill.
  44. ^ "NRA-PVF | Grades | Nevada". nrapvf.org. NRA-PVF. Archived from the original on November 2, 2022. Retrieved August 23, 2023.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: unfit URL (link)
  45. ^ Kerry Eleveld (September 27, 2016). "NRA gears up to drop $1 million-plus attacking Cortez Masto in Nevada". Daily Kos. Kos Media. Archived from the original on September 30, 2016. Retrieved August 23, 2023.
  46. ^ Smith, Anthony (October 2, 2017). "After massacre, Nevada's members of Congress are sending "thoughts and prayers."". Mic. Retrieved October 5, 2017.
  47. ^ "Senator Catherine Cortez Masto Cosponsors Bill On Gun Control and Releases Statement on Las Vegas Shooting". 2 News. October 4, 2017. Archived from the original on October 5, 2017. Retrieved October 5, 2017.
  48. ^ Gonzalez, Yvonne (July 7, 2017). "Cortez Masto highlights dangers of Obamacare repeal". Las Vegas Sun. Retrieved October 5, 2017.
  49. ^ "Wyden, Merkley urge more affordable housing funds". ktvz.com. April 16, 2019. Archived from the original on April 18, 2019. Retrieved April 17, 2019.
  50. ^ Bowden, John (April 5, 2018). "Democrats question ICE standards for detaining pregnant women". The Hill. Retrieved September 19, 2020.
  51. ^ Alvarado, Monsy (June 21, 2019). "Bob Menendez, Cory Booker and others introduce bill to protect home loans for DACA holders". northjersey.com. Retrieved September 19, 2020.
  52. ^ Self, Zac (July 11, 2019). "Bill would block immigration raids at schools, courthouses". 10news.com.
  53. ^ Messerly, Megan (August 10, 2016). "Cortez Masto ad goes after Heck on abortion stance". Las Vegas Sun. Retrieved October 5, 2017.
  54. ^ "About Catherine". Retrieved November 22, 2021.
  55. ^ Hertzke, Allen D.; Olson, Laura R.; Den Dulk, Kevin R.; Fowler, Robert Booth (August 6, 2018). Religion and Politics in America: Faith, Culture, and Strategic Choices. Routledge. ISBN 978-0-429-94735-3.
  56. ^ "'It's About Time': 1st Latina Senator, 7 new Latinos sworn in House". NBC News. January 4, 2017.
  57. ^ "As Catholics and Americans, we can't sit by while our country destroys the planet". America Magazine. November 30, 2017.
  58. ^ "Nevada Election 2010". New York Times. November 2, 2010. Retrieved February 22, 2022.
  59. ^ "Silver State Election Night Results 2016". Nevada Secretary of State. November 8, 2016. Retrieved December 20, 2016.
  60. ^ "Silver State 2022 – General Election Results – U.S. Senate". Nevada Secretary of State.

External links[edit]

Legal offices
Preceded by Attorney General of Nevada
Succeeded by
Party political offices
Preceded by Democratic nominee for U.S. Senator from Nevada
(Class 3)

2016, 2022
Most recent
Preceded by Chair of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee
Succeeded by
U.S. Senate
Preceded by
Harry Reid
United States Senator (Class 3) from Nevada
Served alongside: Dean Heller, Jacky Rosen
U.S. order of precedence (ceremonial)
Preceded byas United States Senator from Illinois Order of precedence of the United States
as United States Senator from Nevada

since January 3, 2017
Succeeded byas United States Senator from Minnesota
Preceded by United States senators by seniority