Latino voters helped the first Latina to the Senate. But will they send her back?


sen. Catherine Cortez Masto made history nearly six years ago as the first Latina elected to the U.S. Senate after a hard-fought, expensive race that she won by less than 3 percent.

Her reelection looks just as tough, and one demographic is especially key to keeping her seat: Latinos.

Republicans, emboldened by their victories over Latinos in South Texas and Florida in recent elections, see Nevada as their next chance to break through with a voting demographic that is trending in the right direction.

GOP nominee and former Nevada Attorney General Adam Laxalt, through his “Latinos for Laxalt” coalition, is promoting to voters that his candidacy for the MAGA brand is an opportunity for change.

“All we have to look forward to is it waking people up,” Laxalt said during a Latino-focused campaign stop in Las Vegas earlier this month, according to a report by The Nevada Independent. “They’re throwing the Democrats away. They know that this policy is dangerous and toxic to our children, to our country.”

But left-wing Latino organizing groups and Cortez Masto’s campaign are pulling out all the stops to ensure the mood swings don’t happen — and they reject the idea that the GOP playbook that worked with the recent victories of Latino voters in Texas and Florida will have the same effect in the Battle Born State.

“Republicans treat Latinos like a monolith and state that because they saw movement in a small fraction of Latinos in certain states, that’s a brush to paint for the whole country and Latinos all over the country,” Yvonne Gonzales, director of the Latino Victory Fund, The Daily Beast told. “If we know that’s not the case.”

Cortez Masto has been a reliable voice for President Joe Biden’s agenda and a voice for the misery in Nevada during the pandemic, where the hospitality and tourism industries were decimated as travel ground to a halt.

But elections for Nevada Democrats are often won by narrow margins. Cortez Masto won her first term in the Senate by just 2.4 points in 2016 — but Latinos voted for Cortez Mastro 61 to 32 percent more than then challenger Joe Heck — just like the 60 percent that former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton voted for that same year. received, according to the Las Vegas Review-Journal. Biden also won the state in 2020, but with 56 Latinos voting, while Trump improved his percentage of the vote from 29 percent to 37 percent on exit polls, according to NBC News.

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Latinos are expected to appear in greater numbers in Nevada compared to the 2020 general election — and they are likely to make up 1 in 5 Nevada voters in November, according to forecasts from the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials (NALEO) Education Fund .

While Democrats have seen some signs of hope that their medium-term outlook has not completely tanked, a historic two-point margin gives little breathing room in what is expected to be a difficult year for the party.

“It’s getting competitive, they’re normally in Nevada,” Cortez Masto told The Daily Beast on Tuesday.

Laxalt himself was one of the GOP’s top recruits this cycle, with the expectation that he would dominate every Republican primary field on name recognition alone, since Laxalt’s father – and grandfather – were U.S. Senators. Those expectations were correct, as Laxalt, who is backed by former President Trump, won the GOP scoop in June with more than 55 percent of the vote.

Cortez Masto’s campaign is well aware of the role Latino voters are playing in securing her re-election against Laxalt in November. She’s been on the air in Spanish since May, with ads touting her Mexican grandfather’s trip to America and her record in the Senate during her first term. She also makes rounds at Latino-focused events, traverses the state to help voters from key demographics.

Cortez Masto campaign spokesman Josh Marcus-Blank said her candidacy offers a “clear contrast” to Laxalt’s, adding, “Senator Cortez Masto has consistently fought for the Nevada community.”

But Laxalt and his conservative allies are also establishing a foothold in Latino communities. Last week, Laxalt plunged into deep blue Las Vegas with a series of Latino-focused voter outreach events, hoping to get old Democrats to take a chance with conservatives.

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His message echoes those Republicans who have used in Texas and Florida — which have proved at least somewhat effective: that the American dream is under attack in the state amid inflation and increased gas prices, and that electing a Republican may have an element of Modify.

“I am extremely grateful for the overwhelming support I have received from the Latino community during this campaign,” Laxalt said in a statement after completing a series of campaign shutdowns targeting Latino voters.

“While traveling across the state, I’ve had the opportunity to speak with countless Latino families to hear their stories and hear about their concerns and priorities. Like many families, they are concerned about rising prices, the cost of gas, our open border and the deadly increase in violent crime.”

Republican agents in the beltway are also clamoring about Laxalt’s prospects.

“Oh, we’re going to win,” Rick Scott, chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, told The Daily Beast about the Nevada Senate showdown. In a follow-up to the question of what demographic votes would make that possible, Scott touted a “major investment in the Hispanic vote” as the Republicans’ silver bullet toward victory.

“As you know, Hispanics are fed up with the Democratic Party because they found out that the Democratic Party doesn’t care about them… the Spaniards have had enough of the public school system, they’ve had enough of all this inflation. They’re tired of blaming the police,” Scott said.

“I think it will put us in a great position to win.”

But organizers say efforts to sway Latinos toward the GOP are not new — noting that conservative records on issues like immigration and more won’t resonate with Nevadan Latinos this cycle.

“We’ve seen Republicans over the years focus on trying to win the Latino vote and use certain wedge issues that they think will engage Latinos,” Gonzales said. “If you really look at the Republican story now, they can’t be anti-Latino anymore.”

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Maria Teresa Kumar, president of the organizing group Voto Latino, also told The Daily Beast that the Latino right-wing trend is largely driven by older Latinos. Younger Latinos, she says, are still steadily popular with Democrats, and their rise is key to a Cortez Masto victory.

“They are the ones who are able to question many of these states that we need to get them to the polls,” Kumar said.

And Democratic agents warn that new efforts by the GOP are outweighed by the long-term investments the left has made among Latinos.

“Democrats have been doing this work for a long time. And there’s still a lot of work to do right now, but we’ve been accelerating that for decades,” said Megan Jones, a senior Democratic aide in Nevada.

To be sure, Nevada is one of the most diverse states in the nation, also home to large Asian American and Pacific islanders and black populations, meaning a range of opinions will come into play. And political issues of bread and butter will certainly remain at the forefront of both candidates’ campaigns, as new restrictions on abortion, climate change, jobs and rising prices continue to be issues in the West.

“[Laxalt] goes against Roe vs. Wade and gives everyone the choice of reproductive freedom and is against the bipartisan infrastructure package that I supported that will create high paying jobs in our state,” Cortez Masto told The Daily Beast. “And he’s still working on it.” venting his conspiracies and lies about the election – the last election.”

But there’s no denying that investing in Latinos will be a game changer — to the point where Gonzales says even Democrats would manage to do more.

“I always think there must be more and I’m biased…” she said. “We can’t just paint with a broad brush. So I think there’s definitely more that needs to be done, you know, by the party to engage and motivate and mobilize Latinos to vote for them — and it’s an important opportunity.”



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