Catherine Cortez Masto

Catherine Marie Cortez Masto (born March 29, 1964) is an American lawyer and politician who is the senior United States senator from Nevada since 2017. A member of the Democratic Party, she was the 32nd attorney general of Nevada from 2007 to 2015.

Catherine Cortez Masto
Catherine Cortez Masto official portrait.jpg
Official portrait, 2017
United States Senator
from Nevada
Assumed office
January 3, 2017
Serving with Jacky Rosen
Preceded byHarry Reid
Chair of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee
Assumed office
January 3, 2019
LeaderChuck Schumer
Preceded byChris Van Hollen
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 56)
Las Vegas, Nevada, U.S.
Political partyDemocratic
Spouse(s)Paul Masto
EducationUniversity of Nevada, Reno (BS)
Gonzaga University (JD)
WebsiteSenate website

Cortez Masto graduated from 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 U.S. 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 when Dean Heller left office in January 2019.

Early lifeEdit

Cortez Masto was born in Las Vegas, Nevada, the daughter of Joanna (née Musso) and Manny Cortez.[2] Her father was the longtime head of the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority and served as a Clark County Commissioner and as an attorney for the county.[3] Now deceased, Manny Cortez had a longstanding friendship with Harry Reid.[4] Her father is of Mexican descent, and her mother is of Italian.[5][6] Her paternal grandfather, Eduardo Cortez, immigrated to Nevada from Chihuahua, Mexico.[7][8][9]

Education and law careerEdit

Cortez Masto earned a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration in finance from the University of Nevada, Reno in 1986 and a J.D. from Gonzaga University School of Law in 1990.[10]

She was admitted to the State Bar of Nevada in 1990, the U.S. District Court, District of Nevada in 1991, and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in 1994. She is married to Paul Masto, a former Special Agent in the United States Secret Service.[11]

Cortez Masto's 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.[4]

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.[12][13]

Nevada Attorney GeneralEdit

Cortez Masto with then-California Attorney General (and later Senate colleague) 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".[14] 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".[15] 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.[11] The charges against Krolicki were ultimately dismissed in Clark County District Court.[16] 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."[17]

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.[18] The lawsuit was settled in 2012 for $750 million for lien reductions and short sales.[19]

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,[20] Cortez Masto and the state abandoned their defense in light of a ruling by the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.[21]

U.S. SenateEdit

Catherine Cortez Masto being sworn in as U.S. Senator by Vice President Joe Biden.


Cortez Masto declined to run for Governor of Nevada in the 2014 election.[22] When U.S. Senator Harry Reid decided not to run for reelection in the 2016 election, he endorsed her as his successor.[4] Cortez Masto's campaign relied heavily on the political infrastructure Reid had assembled.[23] 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.[24] She was also financially supported by End Citizens United, a political action committee seeking to overturn Citizens United v. FEC, and pro-choice groups such as EMILY's List and Planned Parenthood.[25]

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, almost 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.[26]


Committee assignmentsEdit

Caucus membershipsEdit

Political positionsEdit

Foreign policyEdit

In April 2019, Cortez Masto was one of 34 senators to sign a letter to President Trump encouraging him "to listen to members of your own Administration and reverse a decision that will damage our national security and aggravate conditions inside Central America", asserting that he had "consistently expressed a flawed understanding of U.S. foreign assistance" since taking office and that he was "personally undermining efforts to promote U.S. national security and economic prosperity" by preventing the use of Fiscal Year 2018 national security funding. The senators argued that foreign assistance to Central American countries created less migration to the U.S. by helping to improve conditions in those countries.[28]


Cortez Masto recognizes the existence of human-caused climate change and believes that the federal government should limit power plants' greenhouse gas emissions.[29] 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.[30]

Gun lawEdit

The National Rifle Association (NRA) has given Cortez Masto a F grade because of her support for gun control. During the 2016 election, the organization spent $1 million on an attack ad against her. Cortez Masto opposes allowing people on the terrorist watchlist to buy guns, saying that "makes no sense."[31]

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.[32]

Health careEdit

Cortez Masto does not support the repeal of the Affordable Care Act (also known as Obamacare).[29] 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.[33]

In December 2018, Cortez Masto was one of 42 senators to sign a letter to Trump administration officials Alex Azar, Seema Verma, and Steve Mnuchin arguing that the administration was improperly using Section 1332 of the Affordable Care Act to authorize states to "increase health care costs for millions of consumers while weakening protections for individuals with pre-existing conditions." The senators requested the administration withdraw the policy and "re-engage with stakeholders, states, and Congress."[34]


In April 2019, Cortez Masto was one of 41 senators to sign a bipartisan letter to the housing subcommittee praising the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development's Section 4 Capacity Building program as authorizing "HUD to partner with national nonprofit community development organizations to provide education, training, and financial support to local community development corporations (CDCs) across the country" and expressing disappointment that Trump's budget "has slated this program for elimination after decades of successful economic and community development." The senators wrote of their hope that the subcommittee would support continued funding for Section 4 in Fiscal Year 2020.[35]


In April 2018, Cortez Masto was one of five senators to send a letter to acting director of ICE Thomas Homan about standards the agency uses to determine how to detain a pregnant woman, requesting that pregnant women not be held in custody except in extraordinary cases after reports "that ICE has failed to provide critical medical care to pregnant women in immigration detention—resulting in miscarriages and other negative health outcomes".[36]

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.[37]

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.[38]

LGBTQ+ RightsEdit

Cortez Masto supports same-sex marriage.[29]

Abortion and birth controlEdit

Cortez Masto is pro-choice.[29] In the 2016 election, she was endorsed by Planned Parenthood and funded by their action fund.[39]

Additionally, she does not believe that companies should be allowed to withhold coverage for birth control based on religious beliefs.[29]


In October 2017, Cortez Masto condemned the genocide of the Rohingya Muslim minority in Myanmar and called for a stronger response to the crisis.[40]


She cosponsored the bipartisan STATES Act proposed in the 115th U.S. Congress by Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren and Colorado Senator Cory Gardner that would exempt individuals or corporations in compliance with state cannabis laws from federal enforcement of the Controlled Substances Act.[41]

Electoral historyEdit

Democratic primary results
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%
United States Senate election in Nevada, 2016 [42]
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

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b "2016 Nevada Senate Election Results". Politico. Retrieved November 8, 2016.
  2. ^ Las Vegas High School Alumni Association: "MANUEL J. CORTEZ (Class of 1956)" retrieved February 15, 2016
  3. ^ "Former Las Vegas convention chief Cortez dies at 67". Las Vegas Sun. June 19, 2006. Retrieved July 26, 2016.
  4. ^ 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.
  5. ^ "Catherine Cortez Masto for Senate — Catherine Cortez Masto Launches Spanish-Language". March 14, 2016. Retrieved May 1, 2017.
  6. ^ 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
  7. ^ Everett, Burgess (September 23, 2016). "Cortez Masto seizes on 'hispandering' attack". Politico. Retrieved October 13, 2016.
  8. ^ Snyder, Riley (September 23, 2016). "Nevada Republican Senate hopeful Joe Heck launches first TV ad of general election campaign". KTNV. Retrieved October 13, 2016.
  9. ^ "Manuel Cortez-Obituary". Review Journal Obituaries. September 23, 2016. Retrieved October 13, 2016.
  10. ^ "Alumni Profile: Catherine Cortez Masto". Gonzaga School of Law. March 19, 2014. Archived from the original on February 6, 2016. Retrieved February 5, 2016.
  11. ^ a b Vogel, Ed (November 24, 2009). "Krolicki case might take twist". Las Vegas Review Journal. Retrieved February 5, 2018.
  12. ^ McCabe, Francis (November 25, 2014). "Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto named to higher ed post". Las Vegas Review Journal. Retrieved February 5, 2016.
  13. ^ 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.
  14. ^ "State Results: Attorney General". Reno Gazette-Journal. Reno, NV. November 9, 2006. p. 7 – via
  15. ^ "Results: Congress, Statewide Offices; Attorney General". Reno Gazette-Journal. Reno, NV. November 9, 2006. p. 7 – via
  16. ^ McCoy, Cara (December 7, 2009). "Charges dismissed against Lt. Gov. Brian Krolicki". Las Vegas Sun. Retrieved February 19, 2016.
  17. ^ Coolican, J. Patrick (December 8, 2009). "Cortez Masto's shining star dims after Krolicki decision". Las Vegas Sun. Retrieved February 19, 2016.
  18. ^ Morgenson, Gretchen (August 30, 2011). "Nevada Says Bank Broke Mortgage Settlement". The New York Times. Retrieved November 5, 2013.
  19. ^ Rosenblatt, Joel (February 9, 2012). "Bank of America Settles With Nevada Attorney General Masto". Bloomberg Business. Retrieved February 5, 2016.
  20. ^ Whaley, Sean (January 22, 2014). "Nevada legal brief defends state's same-sex marriage ban". Las Vegas Review Journal. Retrieved February 5, 2016.
  21. ^ 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.
  22. ^ 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.
  23. ^ Kane, Paul (November 17, 2015). "Harry Reid, retiring but betting big on Nevada for Democratic Senate majority". The Washington Post. Retrieved February 5, 2016.
  24. ^ Botkin, Ben (September 25, 2016). "Climate change becoming increasingly visible campaign issue in Nevada". Las Vegas Review-Journal. Retrieved October 4, 2016.
  25. ^ Botkin, Ben (October 2, 2016). "Outside spending groups pump millions into political races in Nevada". Las Vegas Review-Journal. Retrieved October 4, 2016.
  26. ^ 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.
  27. ^ "Members". Congressional Hispanic Caucus. Archived from the original on May 15, 2018. Retrieved May 15, 2018.
  28. ^ Frazin, Rachel (April 4, 2019). "More than 30 Senate Dems ask Trump to reconsider Central American aid cuts". The Hill.
  29. ^ 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.
  30. ^ Akers, Mick (February 24, 2017). "Cortez Masto, clean energy advocates cite concerns about EPA under Pruitt". Las Vegas Sun. Retrieved October 5, 2017.
  31. ^ Smith, Anthony. "After massacre, Nevada's members of Congress are sending "thoughts and prayers."". Mic. Retrieved October 5, 2017.
  32. ^ "Senator Catherine Cortez Masto Cosponsors Bill On Gun Control and Releases Statement on Las Vegas Shooting". 2 News. Retrieved October 5, 2017.
  33. ^ Gonzalez, Yvonne (July 7, 2017). "Cortez Masto highlights dangers of Obamacare repeal". Las Vegas Sun. Retrieved October 5, 2017.
  34. ^ "U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin Calls on Trump Administration to Stop Pushing Health Insurance Plans that Weaken Pre-Existing Condition Protections". December 20, 2018.
  35. ^ "Wyden, Merkley urge more affordable housing funds". April 16, 2019. Archived from the original on April 18, 2019. Retrieved April 17, 2019.
  36. ^ Bowden, John (April 5, 2018). "Democrats question ICE standards for detaining pregnant women". The Hill. Retrieved September 19, 2020.
  37. ^ Alvarado, Monsy (June 21, 2019). "Bob Menendez, Cory Booker and others introduce bill to protect home loans for DACA holders". Retrieved September 19, 2020.
  38. ^ Self, Zac (July 11, 2019). "Bill would block immigration raids at schools, courthouses".
  39. ^ Messerly, Megan (August 10, 2016). "Cortez Masto ad goes after Heck on abortion stance". Las Vegas Sun. Retrieved October 5, 2017.
  40. ^ Hussein, Fatima (October 22, 2017). "Sen. Todd Young urges action to end Muslim genocide in Myanmar". IndyStar. Retrieved March 5, 2019.
  41. ^ "Cosponsors - S.3032 - 115th Congress (2017-2018): STATES Act". Retrieved July 7, 2018.
  42. ^ "Silver State Election Night Results 2016". Nevada Secretary of State. November 8, 2016. Retrieved December 20, 2016.

External linksEdit

Legal offices
Preceded by
George Chanos
Attorney General of Nevada
Succeeded by
Adam Laxalt
Party political offices
Preceded by
Harry Reid
Democratic nominee for U.S. Senator from Nevada
(Class 3)

Most recent
Preceded by
Chris Van Hollen
Chair of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee
U.S. Senate
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United States Senator (Class 3) from Nevada
Served alongside: Dean Heller, Jacky Rosen
U.S. order of precedence (ceremonial)
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