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Catherine Cortez Masto, Nevada Latina Politician Who Could Replace Harry Reid: What You Need To Know

First Posted: Mar 30, 2015 03:50 PM EDT

Nevada's former attorney general could become the next Latina U.S. senator following the announcement of Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid's retirement. Catherine Cortez Masto, who served as attorney general, was the only Latina holding the position across the country.

Reid confirmed he will not seek re-election 2016, and he has been vocal on potential successors for his Nevada senate seat. Reid said he has spoken to Cortez Masto about potentially running for the senate. "If she runs, I'm going to help her," Reid told Nevada Public Radio, KNPR. "Whoever runs against Catherine will be a loser."

"The Cortez family and the Reids have been very close," said Nevada Democratic strategist Andres Ramirez, via the National Journal. "I think you're going to see Reid do a full-court press on her behalf. Having her background and Reid's infrastructure will certainly make for a much easier way to capture the election."

Cortez Masto is currently the Nevada System of Higher Education's executive vice president, but prior to assuming the role, she served two terms as Nevada's attorney general. In both attorney general election, Cortez Masto won her race by double-digit figures. Since her second term was coming to an end in early January 2015, she was speculated to run for the state's governor or lieutenant governor roles. She has, however, said she will "definitely not" run for lieutenant governor in 2013 and said the same for the governor position in 2014.

"I want to finish out what I'm doing here in the attorney general's office, and I'm exploring what other options might be available for me, but I can never say I will never run for governor in the future," Cortez Masto said in September 2013 to the Las Vegas Sun.

"Catherine Cortez Masto has been a fighter for Nevada women and families," said EMILY's List spokeswoman Marcy Stech in a statement. "She has a bright future and it's past time to elect the first Latina to the U.S. Senate."

Cortez Masto could encounter competition from the state's Latino governor, Brian Sandoval, who also served as Nevada's attorney general from January 2003 to October 2005.

As Latin Post reported, Reid announced his retirement during a YouTube video on March 27. Reid said, "I have had time to ponder and to think. We've got to be more concerned about the country, the Senate, the state of Nevada than us. And as a result of that I'm not going to run for re-election."

Reid said his retirement is not related to his facial injuries or since becoming Senate minority leader. While Reid recommended Cortez Masto, he suggested Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York to succeed him as the Senate's top Democrat.

President Barack Obama has called Reid "a fighter" for good jobs, safer environment and for affordable health care. He added, "As the leader of the Senate Democrats during my time in office, Harry has become not only an ally, but a friend. I'm proud of all we have accomplished together, and I know the Senate will not be the same without him. I look forward to working with him to keep fighting for every American over the next two years, and Michelle and I wish him and Landra well in whatever the future holds," said Obama in a statement.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said in a statement, "Nothing has ever come easily to this son of Searchlight. Underestimated often, his distinctive grit and determined focus nevertheless saw him through many challenges. They continue to make him a formidable opponent today. Through every turn in his long career, Landra would be there by his side -- and Harry by hers. In a short time, they will soon have the opportunity to write yet another chapter in their story together. Until then, I look forward to Senator Reid joining us in the many opportunities we'll have to accomplish important things for the American people here in the Senate."

The election of Cortez Masto, or Sandoval, could help represent the state's 27.5 percent Latino population, which is higher than the national average of 17.1 percent.

Cortez Masto graduated from the University of Nevada-Reno for her Bachelor's degree in 1986 and received her Juris Doctorate from Gonzaga University of Law in 1990.


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