Born and raised in Las Vegas, Nevada, Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.) has represented the state in the U.S. Senate since 2017, when she made history as the first woman from Nevada and the first Latina ever elected to the Senate. Before heading to Washington, D.C., Cortez Masto served two terms as Nevada’s attorney general and now faces another former Nevada attorney general, Adam Laxalt, in her reelection campaign.
Laxalt has not only been endorsed by former President Donald Trump, but has also peddled the “Big Lie” and led the effort to overturn the 2020 presidential election in the state of Nevada.
In Democracy Docket’s latest candidate Q&A of the 2022 cycle, Cortez Masto outlines her three “must-have” provisions in a federal voting rights bill, explains why threats against election officials are on the rise and tells us her favorite way to vote.
Responses have been edited for style and clarity.
In July, a bipartisan group of senators introduced legislation to reform the antiquated Electoral Count Act of 1887. What do you make of this bill and do you plan to support it?
I am still reviewing this legislation, but as an eyewitness to the insurrection on Jan. 6, 2021, I do support reform to the Electoral Count Act.
If you could abolish the filibuster and guarantee a federal voting rights bill will make it to President Joe Biden’s desk, what are three “must-have” provisions you’d include in that bill and why?
To protect our democracy and restore power to voters, we must improve voter access, preserve election integrity and quality administration and empower voters through campaign finance reform.
Your Trump-backed opponent, Laxalt, led the effort to overturn the state’s 2020 presidential election results. During his campaign for Senate, he has taken issue with votes cast in only two counties — Clark, which is heavily Democratic, and Washoe — but trusts the votes cast in the state’s 15 other counties. Why do you think he takes issue with the votes in Clark and Washoe counties, but not in the others?
Adam Laxalt led efforts to overturn the 2020 election for Trump, and he continues to push baseless conspiracies about election fraud that our Republican secretary of state has dismissed. He’s already preparing lawsuits to challenge the outcome of this election if it doesn’t go his way, and his campaign is being run by someone who was at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6. It’s clear Adam recognizes that his lies are causing voters to distrust our electoral process, and arguing that there is only voter fraud in urban areas with Democratic voters is an especially cynical, dishonest way to try to earn Nevadans’ votes.
The recent resignation of Washoe County Registrar of Voters Deanna Spikula follows a nationwide uptick in harassment, intimidation and threats against election officials. Why do you believe this behavior is on the rise and what can you do as a U.S. senator to combat this trend?
Election officials are under greater threat than at any time in recent history because of far-right politicians who peddle the “Big Lie” about election fraud, including my opponent. I’ve joined a letter calling for the Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) to take steps to address these serious threats.
Joey Gilbert, a “Big Lie” gubernatorial candidate who lost the Nevada Republican primary in June, challenged the election results in court. Since your opponent also casts doubt on our free and fair elections, and even indicated he might launch legal challenges ahead of the 2022 election, what are your thoughts on these lawsuits and what steps can you take to restore faith in the electoral process in your state?
Adam Laxalt has made it clear that he will break the rules to try to seize power. His top allies in Nevada are currently being investigated by the FBI for their work to submit false electors and keep Trump in power. But our electoral processes have been proven safe and secure by the courts in Nevada, and I am confident in our Republican secretary of state, who protected our elections and was censured by the Nevada Republican Party for doing so.
With the U.S. Supreme Court’s devastating decisions and the ongoing hearings on the Jan. 6 insurrection at the Capitol, it’s easy for us to feel discouraged by the state of our democracy. What do you say to voters who don’t feel like their voices are being heard?
The best way to protect democracy and our fundamental freedoms is to vote for candidates who recognize they need to be protected and will have the courage to do so. Right now that is the Democratic U.S. Senate majority. In 2016, I won by just two points, and those two points are the reason we were able to stop [Sen.] Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) from repealing the Affordable Care Act. Your vote matters, and we need to work together to win this race — it’s critical for families in Nevada and across the country.
Favorite way to vote?
Early or by mail!
First elected position?
[Nevada] attorney general.
Go-to walk up song?
Whatever It Takes by Imagine Dragons (Las Vegas’ own!).
Most underrated fact about Nevada?
There are so many Hawaiians living in Las Vegas that it’s referred to as the ninth island of Hawaii!