The Latino vote in Nevada presents an opportunity for everyone in the crowded field of Democrats seeking to be the party’s 2020 presidential nominee, but none of the candidates running has an edge and they all must do more than criticize the president, U.S. Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto said Monday.
“No,” the Nevada Democrat told reporters on a conference call Monday when asked if any of the 25 candidates from her party had an advantage. “I think it’s still early on. I think every candidate in the presidential still has the opportunity” to engage with Latino voters and make their case. I don’t think anyone has any particular advantage, Cortez Masto continued.
Among the 25 candidates are Julian Castro, a Latino who served as mayor of San Antonio, Texas, and as the former Housing and Urban Development Secretary under President Barack Obama. Other candidates of color include New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker, California Sen. Kamala Harris, Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard and Miramar, Florida Mayor Wayne Messam. The first two primary debates are set for Wednesday and Thursday in Miami.
She noted that the early, Feb. 22 caucus—the third nominating contest in the nation after Iowa and New Hampshire—will provide an opportunity for the candidates to engage the Latino community in the state. Hispanics, a significant constituency, make up 29 percent of the state’s population, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
Although getting into the state early is important for the candidates, Cortez Masto has told the presidential candidates who have contacted her that there is still time to make a play for the Latino vote and to compete in the caucus.
“If you’re going to come into Nevada, this is an area where you have to focus early and be engaged and talking about the issues,” she said. “I think there’s still time to do that, but one of the things I say is, ‘Do not neglect it. Do not take these votes for granted because they are like every other voter. You’ve got to ask for their votes and talk to the issues that matter to them.’”
She noted that immigration is relevant to Latinos in Nevada.
“A lot of these families are either first generation or their kids are DREAMers and they are paying attention to what is happening on the border,” Cortez Masto.
But she added that is not the only important issue despite the harsh rhetoric on the matter from President Trump.
“It’s more than just being anti-Trump,” she continued. “Of course they don’t trust him, but they are also looking for somebody who is going to fight on other issues that matter to them as well, when it comes to education for their kids, when we are talking about good paying jobs and wages, and also on health care and access.”
In 2018, health care was among the top issues of concern for Nevada voters.
“If any presidential [candidate] is going to skip Nevada and not come out and visit, they do it at their own peril,” Cortez Masto said.
To date 19 Democratic candidates have visited the state.
First elected in 2016, Cortez Masto is the first female Nevada senator and the first Latina to serve in the upper chamber of the U.S. Congress. She said that despite growing up in the Hispanic community, she still had to campaign hard to win votes. She easily won the Democratic primary with 80.6 percent of the vote. In the general election, she defeated former Republican Rep. Joe Heck, by winning 47.1 percent of the vote compared to his 44.7 percent.
“I was proud to be the first woman senator from Nevada and the first Latina, but I had to go into the community and talk to voters…about, not only who I was, but why I was going to fight for them.”