Catherine Cortez Masto is no ordinary politician. Not only is she the first woman to serve as a senator from Nevada, but she is also the first Latina ever to be elected to the upper chamber of Congress. Her election wasn’t ordinary either. She barely won the seat previously held by Democratic minority leader Harry Reid — less than 3% separated her from the Republican challenger Joe Heck.
The senator is aware of the historic feat she accomplished last year and is determined to take advantage of the opportunity. “Those accomplishments mean nothing by themselves. What you do with the opportunity is what really matters,” she said during a meeting with Mexican university students last Tuesday.
Those accomplishments mean nothing by themselves. What you do with the opportunity is what really matters.
Her road to the Senate was all but easy. The Republicans spent a record amount of outside money in the race — according to the New York Times, conservative activists Charles and David Koch invested in Joe Heck's campaign — which probably explains why Sen. Cortez Masto only won one county in the whole state.
Prior to her election, Sen. Cortez Masto served two terms as Nevada's Attorney General, during which she worked to crack down on drug manufacturers.
But not even $90 million in outside spending was enough to stop her. She had the full support of the party: then-President Obama tapped a radio ad in support of her, and she had joint appearances with Sen. Elizabeth Warren.
In the end, she secured a key seat for the Democratic Party — a seat they have held since 1987 — which has given the party a greater number of options when dealing with the new president.
Watch her victory speech in last year's election:
What she wants
After taking office, she has made clear that, while it’s still her first year in Congress, she’s determined to make her voice heard on the big issues.
In a recent interview with a Nevada local radio host, Sen. Cortez Masto reiterated her support for immigration reform and discussed the first 100 days of the Trump administration. “We have a broken immigration system so let's sit down and have a common-sense solution to it, and that is passing comprehensive immigration reform,” she said.
She supports a path to citizenship and refuses to accept the narrative painting immigrants — Latinos in particular — as violent criminals. “Undocumented immigrants in this community are not the violent criminals. Statistics will show that, but at the end of the day, we also want to make sure law enforcement has access to all available tools to protect our communities, even at our borders,” she explained.
The freshman senator also supports LGBT+ rights and joined several Democratic Senators in re-introducing federal legislation to ban discrimination against LGBT+ people. “It is past time the LGBTQ community receive the same rights and protections guaranteed by our constitution,” she said in a statement.
About the author: Mauricio Holguin is a Mexican journalism student currently on a fellowship at The Washington Center in Washington, D.C. He's been a staff writer at Shout! since January 2017.
Feature Image: Ethan Miller / Getty Images