Catherine Cortez Masto

Catherine Cortez Masto
United States Senator
from Nevada
Assumed office
January 3, 2017
Serving with Dean Heller
Preceded by Harry Reid
32nd Attorney General of Nevada
In office
January 1, 2007  January 5, 2015
Governor Jim Gibbons
Brian Sandoval
Preceded by George Chanos
Succeeded by Adam Laxalt
Personal details
Born Catherine Marie Cortez
(1964-03-29) March 29, 1964
Las Vegas, Nevada, U.S.
Political party Democratic
Spouse(s) Paul Masto
Education University of Nevada, Reno (BS)
Gonzaga University (JD)
Website Senate website

Catherine Marie Cortez Masto (born March 29, 1964) is an American attorney and politician serving as the junior United States Senator from Nevada since 2017. A member of the Democratic Party, she previously served as the 32nd Attorney General of Nevada (2007–2015).

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 to replace 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 defeated 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 Senate.[1] She took office on January 3, 2017.

Early life

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] Manny Cortez, now deceased, and Harry Reid had a longstanding friendship.[4] Her father is of Mexican descent and her mother is of Italian descent.[5] Her paternal grandfather, Edward Cortez, immigrated to Nevada from the Mexican state of Chihuahua.[6][7][8]

Education and law career

Cortez Masto earned a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration degree in finance from the University of Nevada, Reno in 1986 and a J.D. from Gonzaga University School of Law in 1990.[9]

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.[10]

Her career includes 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. She also served as former Nevada Democratic 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 initial controversy because she was hired directly by the chancellor, and not the university system's board of regents; the chancellor indicated that the regents had previously recommended that he hire an assistant, and in December the board voted unanimously to approve her annual salary of $215,000.[11][12]

Nevada Attorney General

In 2009, Cortez Masto's office launched an investigation against Brian Krolicki, the Republican Lieutenant Governor of Nevada. 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.[13] The charges against Krolicki were ultimately dismissed in Clark County District Court.[14] 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."[15]

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 alleged deceptive marketing and lending practices. Bank of America denied any wrongdoing.[16] The lawsuit was settled in 2012 for $750 million for lien reductions and short sales.[17]

Cortez Masto defended the state of Nevada's position in the lawsuit Sevcik v. Sandoval. The lawsuit challenged Nevada's denial of same-sex marriage as prohibited by the state's constitution and statutory law. After initially defending the state's same-sex marriage ban,[18] Cortez Masto and the state abandoned their defense of the ban in light of a ruling by the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.[19]

U.S. Senate


Cortez Masto declined to run for Governor of Nevada in the 2014 election.[20] When U.S. Senator Harry Reid decided not to run for re-election in the 2016 election, he endorsed Cortez Masto as his successor.[4] Cortez Masto's campaign relied heavily on the political infrastructure Reid had assembled.[21] Her opponent was United States Representative Joe Heck.

Cortez Masto, who supports increased investments in renewable energy technology, was supported by the League of Conservation Voters.[22] Cortez Masto 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.[23]

Cortez Masto won 47% of the vote (520,658 votes), with Joe Heck behind at 45% (494,427 votes).[1]

She filled the seat of former Senator Harry Reid on January 3, 2017, becoming the first Latina in the United States Senate.[24]

Committee assignments

Caucus memberships

Political positions


Cortez believes in human caused climate change and that the federal government should limit the amount of greenhouse gas emissions from power plants.[26] 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.[27]

Gun law

Cortez Masto is a gun owner. The National Rifle Association (NRA) has given Cortez Masto a "F" rating due to her support for gun control. During the 2016 election cycle, the NRA spent $1 million on an attack ad against her. She opposes allowing individuals on the terrorist watch list to buy guns, stating that allowing them to do so "makes no sense."[28]

In response to the 2017 Las Vegas shooting, Cortez Masto co-sponsored a bill with Dianne Feinstein to ban bump stocks. She stated that, although the bill cannot bring back the lives of those lost, it can be a start towards decreasing gun violence and mass shootings.[29]

Health care

Cortez Masto does not support the repeal of the Affordable Care Act (also known as Obamacare).[26] However, 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 healthcare marketplace in lieu of insurance providers leaving the program.[30]


She supports the DREAM Act and allowing undocumented immigrants to obtain citizenship.[26]


Cortez Masto supports gay marriage.[26]

Women's health

Cortez Masto is pro-choice.[26] In the 2016 election, she was endorsed by Planned Parenthood and funded by their action fund.[31]

Additionally, she does not believe that companies can withhold access to birth control from women based on religious beliefs.[26]

See also


  1. 1 2 "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. 1 2 3 Drusch, Andrea (March 27, 2015). "Meet the Woman Harry Reid Wants to Replace Him in the Senate". National Journal. Retrieved February 5, 2016.
  5. "Catherine Cortez Masto for Senate — Catherine Cortez Masto Launches Spanish-Language". 2016-03-14. Retrieved 2017-05-01.
  6. "Catherine Cortez Masto Seizes on Hispandering Attack". Politico. September 23, 2016. Retrieved October 13, 2016.
  7. "Nevada Republican Senate hopeful Joe Heck launches first TV ad of general election campaign". KTNV. September 23, 2016. Retrieved October 13, 2016.
  8. "Manuel Cortez-Obituary". Review Journal Obituaries. September 23, 2016. Retrieved October 13, 2016.
  9. "Alumni Profile: Catherine Cortez Masto". Gonzaga School of Law. March 19, 2014. Retrieved February 5, 2016.
  10. Vogel, Ed (November 24, 2009). "Krolicki case might take twist". Las Vegas Review Journal. Retrieved February 5, 2078. Check date values in: |accessdate= (help)
  11. McCabe, Francis (November 25, 2014). "Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto named to higher ed post". Las Vegas Review Journal. Retrieved February 5, 2016.
  12. Barnes, Bethany (December 16, 2014). "Regents approve Masto's $215,000 salary as executive vice chancellor". Las vegas Review-Journal. Las Vegas, NV.
  13. Vogel, Ed (November 24, 2009). "Krolicki case might take twist". Las Vegas Review Journal. Retrieved February 19, 2016.
  14. McCoy, Cara (December 7, 2009). "Charges dismissed against Lt. Gov. Brian Krolicki". Las Vegas Sun. Retrieved February 19, 2016.
  15. Coolican, J. Patrick (December 8, 2009). "Cortez Masto's shining star dims after Krolicki decision". Las Vegas Sun. Retrieved February 19, 2016.
  16. Morgenson, Gretchen (August 30, 2011). "Nevada Says Bank Broke Mortgage Settlement". The New York Times. Retrieved November 5, 2013.
  17. Rosenblatt, Joel (February 9, 2012). "Bank of America Settles With Nevada Attorney General Masto". Bloomberg Business. Retrieved February 5, 2016.
  18. Whaley, Sean (January 22, 2014). "Nevada legal brief defends state's same-sex marriage ban". Las Vegas Review Journal. Retrieved February 5, 2016.
  19. Ford, Zack (February 11, 2014). "Nevada Abandons Its Defense Of Same-Sex Marriage Ban". ThinkProgress. Retrieved February 5, 2016.
  20. Doughman, Andrew (September 19, 2013). "Cortez Masto: I'm not running for governor". Las Vegas Sun. Retrieved September 20, 2013.
  21. Kane, Paul (November 17, 2015). "Harry Reid, retiring but betting big on Nevada for Democratic Senate majority". Washington Post. Retrieved February 5, 2016.
  22. Botkin, Ben (September 25, 2016). "Climate change becoming increasingly visible campaign issue in Nevada". Las Vegas Review-Journal. Retrieved October 4, 2016.
  23. Botkin, Ben (October 2, 2016). "Outside spending groups pump millions into political races in Nevada". Las Vegas Review-Journal. Retrieved October 4, 2016.
  24. 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.
  25. "Members". Congressional Hispanic Caucus. Retrieved 15 May 2018.
  26. 1 2 3 4 5 6 "Joe Heck vs. Catherine Cortez Masto: Nonpartisan Candidate Guide For 2016 Nevada Senate Race". Huffington Post. 11 October 2016. Retrieved 5 October 2017.
  27. Akers, Mick (24 February 2017). "Cortez Masto, clean energy advocates cite concerns about EPA under Pruitt". Las Vegas Sun. Retrieved 5 October 2017.
  28. Smith, Anthony. "After massacre, Nevada's members of Congress are sending "thoughts and prayers."". Mic. Retrieved 5 October 2017.
  29. "Senator Catherine Cortez Masto Cosponsors Bill On Gun Control and Releases Statement on Las Vegas Shooting". 2 News. Retrieved 5 October 2017.
  30. Gonzalez, Yvonne (7 July 2017). "Cortez Masto highlights dangers of Obamacare repeal". Las Vegas Sun. Retrieved 5 October 2017.
  31. Messerly, Megan (10 August 2016). "Cortez Masto ad goes after Heck on abortion stance". Las Vegas Sun. Retrieved 5 October 2017.
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
U.S. Senate
Preceded by
Harry Reid
United States Senator (Class 3) from Nevada
Served alongside: Dean Heller
Current U.S. order of precedence (ceremonial)
Preceded by
John N. Kennedy
United States Senators by seniority
Succeeded by
Tina Smith
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