Catherine Cortez Masto: Classy – Not Flashy or Trashy

Nevada Senator Catherine Cortez Masto's official photo. She is wearing a royal blue suit jacket and pearls, and she is in front of an American flag and the state flag of Nevada.

How was this race even close?

Following the 2022 election, the nation held its breath awaiting the results of the Nevada Senate race between incumbent and “Harry Reid disciple” Catherine Cortez Masto and “fortunate son” Adam Laxalt to determine which party would gain control over the U.S. Senate.

Both are native-born Nevadans and children of politicians. It became a race between the rural Nevada north and the multicultural Vegas-oriented south in a state notorious for its stark and ugly political divisions. The contrast between candidates could not have been sharper – an election denier versus a champion of women, seniors, the LGBTQ community, and immigrants.

Adam Laxalt’s Political Heritage

Adam’s grandfather, Paul Laxalt (1922 – 2018), is considered political royalty in Nevada. His family was part of the Basque community that settled in Northern Nevada. Paul served as Lieutenant Governor from 1963 – 1967, Governor from 1967 – 1971, U.S. Senator from 1974 – 1987, and General Chair of the Republican National Committee from 1983 – 1987. He was a close personal friend of Ronald Reagan.

Born in 1978, Adam was the product of an affair between Michelle Laxalt, a D.C. lobbyist and the daughter of Paul Laxalt, and Pete Domenici, a U.S. Senator from New Mexico. Adam’s paternity was not  publicly revealed until 2013. As noted in his campaign ads, Michelle raised Adam as a single mother. These ads – designed to elicit sympathy – failed to acknowledge Adam’s superstar family members and attempted to portray him as having an underprivileged upbringing. Throughout his campaign, Laxalt railed against the elites – neglecting to acknowledge that he was one of them.

Catherine Cortez Masto’s Political Heritage

Catherine’s father Manuel “Manny” Cortez (1939 – 2006) served in the U.S. Army during the Korean War, attended college, married a woman of Italian descent, and worked a variety of jobs including as a parking attendant before embarking on a political career. His father had migrated from Chihuahua, Mexico, to Las Cruces, New Mexico, where he married a local woman of Hispanic descent and moved the family to Las Vegas, Nevada, in 1944.

Elected to the Clark County Commission for four terms between 1976 and 1991, Manny Cortez went on to lead the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority (1983 – 2004), serving as President and CEO from 1991 to 2004. He oversaw the “What Happens in Vegas, Stays in Vegas” campaign and is credited for helping revive tourism after 9/11. In 1999, Travel Agent magazine called him “one of the most astute marketers in the tourism industry.” A supporter of children’s causes, Manny Cortez served as the President of the Boys and Girls Club of Las Vegas and on the Board of Directors of the local branch of the Boy Scouts and the Big Brothers and Big Sisters Organization. In 1999, the Clark County School District named an elementary school in his honor.

Catherine Cortez Masto’s Resume

  • The first Latina in the U.S. Senate and the first female Senator from Nevada, Catherine received her B.S. in Finance from the University of Nevada, Reno, followed by her Juris Doctor from Gonzaga University in 1990.
  • She married Paul Masto who was serving as President Clinton’s Secret Service Agent during a visit to Nevada when she was Governor Bob Miller’s Chief of Staff.
  • In 2006, she was elected to her dream job of Nevada Attorney General and was re-elected in 2010.
  • As both Attorney General and Senator, Catherine has been committed to supporting women, seniors, immigrants, and the LGBTQ community.  
  • A staunch champion of women’s issues, Catherine has been a crusader against domestic violence and sex-trafficking, and she has unwaveringly supported women’s right to an abortion.
  • She is committed to maintaining Social Security and Medicare and has also worked to protect seniors against fraud and elder abuse, particularly after her own grandparents became targets of fraud when she was in law school.  
  • Catherine strongly supports comprehensive immigration reforms and the DREAM Act.
  • She has been a strong advocate for the LGBTQ community by co-sponsoring a civil rights bill to protect their rights to employment, education, housing, and all public services.
  • Daughter of a teamster, Catherine is staunchly pro-union.
  • As Senator, Catherine received an “F” grade from the NRA.

Adam Laxalt’s Resume

  • After acquiring his law degree from Georgetown in 2005, Adam served in the U.S. Navy’s Judge Advocate Generals Corp (2005 – 2010).
  • Afterwards, he enjoyed a series of appointed positions before serving a single term as Nevada Attorney General (2015 – 2019), where he attempted to restrict abortion rights, undermine environmental protections, and oppose gun regulation.
  • His controversial positions include opposing same-sex marriage and prohibiting LGBTQ individuals from openly serving in the military.
  • He is against DACA and supports building the wall on the border with Mexico.
  • As Attorney General, secret audio tapes exposed Laxalt in a pay-to-play scheme against the chairman of the Nevada Gaming Control Board who was in a private lawsuit with Sheldon Adelson – a major donor. Similarly, Laxalt attempted to halt investigations of an organization tied to the Koch brothers, who afterwards donated generously to his campaign fund.
  • Following his stint as Attorney General, Laxalt took a position with the Washington, D.C. law firm of Cooper & Kirk, who previously enabled the careers of Ted Cruz and Tom Cotton. His client list at Cooper & Kirk included Wall Street banks, Big Oil, payday lenders, a pharmaceutical company profiting from exorbitant insulin prices, and Breitbart News.  
  • After his unsuccessful run for Governor against Steve Sisolak in 2018, he made false claims of election fraud in Nevada after the 2020 election.
  • Adam’s extreme positions, including his stance as a 2020 election denier, inspired 14 members of his family to endorse Catherine Cortez Masto in the 2022 senatorial race. He is a disgrace to the Laxalt family name.

Like the other 2020 election deniers who lost their races in 2022, hopefully Laxalt’s support of Donald Trump will be an albatross around his neck, thereby killing any future political career. 

Why did the pundits and pollsters project a win for Laxalt?

The economy, Biden’s low ratings, and the Laxalt family name all played a part. During the COVID pandemic, Nevada had the highest unemployment in the nation – over 28%. In October 2022, Nevada still ranked third in unemployment – just behind Illinois and the District of Columbia – with a 4.4% unemployment rate. Since Catherine’s voting record aligned with that of Joe Biden 92.2% of the time, it was assumed that his poor approval ratings would drag her down. Finally, the Laxalt name is gold in the “Silver State.” While recent transplants to Nevada may never have heard of Paul Laxalt, to the state’s Republican machine, the name is synonymous with royalty.

Composed and well-spoken, Cortez Masto may not push herself into the spotlight in the style of Marjorie Taylor Greene or Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, but she is a leader nonetheless. She stands on her principles and gets the job done. She is a hard worker who genuinely cares about her state and the future of our nation. Before 2022, few Americans knew her name. However, Catherine Cortez Masto is now someone who will not be soon forgotten – by Democrats or Republicans – after her historic win secured the Senate in Democratic hands for the near future.

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