Latino voters could again be the deciding factor in Nevada, where Democratic Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto holds a slim lead over Republican challenger and Big Lie proponent, Adam Laxalt.
In 2016, Cortez Masto was swept into office thanks to energized Latino and immigrant voters organized by the fierce Culinary Workers union and other groups on the ground. The first Latina elected to the U.S. Senate, it was a bright moment in an otherwise bleak 2016 election. Flash forward to 2022, new polling from Univision, BSP Research, Shaw & Associates, and University of Texas this week shows Latino voters could once again determine the outcome.
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In the race between Cortez Masto and Laxalt, polling shows “a statistical tie,” with the Democratic incumbent leading by two points. But among Latino voters, she leads Laxalt by an overwhelming margin, 60% to 27%. 13% remain undecided. “Latinos favor Cortez Masto and will play a key role in determining the winner, a race that will affect the balance of power.” The same goes for the state’s gubernatorial race, Univision reported.
“According to the poll, the Democratic party’s incumbent governor, Steve Sisolak, leads Republican Clark County Sheriff, Joe Lombardo, by a slim two-point margin (43% - 41%),” the report said. “The lead is at least partly supported by Latinos who favor Sisolak by a wide 34-point margin (60% -26%) similar to the gap in the Senate race.”
Univision said that its polling showed that Nevada Latinos named inflation as the most important issue they want Congress and President Biden to address, followed by the cost of health care, jobs, abortion, and immigration. Polling showed Latino voters trust Democrats more in addressing inflation, while white voters said they trust Republicans. But the fact is that Cortez Masto helped pass the historic Inflation Reduction Act, while every single Senate Republican opposed it.
The Washington Post columnist Dana Milbank wrote Tuesday that volunteers knocking on doors in Nevada have also noted major concerns about inflation. “The opponent they’re fighting isn’t the GOP (they say they haven’t encountered Laxalt voters), but inflation.” Luis Melchor, a college student, said, “Everyone is complaining about gas prices.”
Cortez Masto has also led on abortion rights, among the top issues named by Latino voters in Nevada. She has been a cosponsor of vital legislation preserving abortion rights nationwide and has vocally opposed the GOP abortion ban led by South Carolina’s Lindsey Graham. Laxalt, meanwhile, called Roe v. Wade “a joke,” “a total, complete invention,” and said that it was “sad” that Nevada wasn’t a “pro-life” state. It’s just one of the reasons that 14 of Laxalt’s relatives recently endorsed Cortez Masto.
Immigrant rights group America’s Voice said in 2020 “that stellar on-the-ground work” by Culinary Union and organizations “have developed a formidable ground game” in Nevada. Where the state was red in 2004, it today has two Democratic U.S. senators and a Democratic governor, and was won by President Biden and Vice President Harris in 2020, thanks in part to Latino voters.
“The changes in Nevada related to racial gaps in voting have been remarkable,” Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada has said. “White working-class voters are down 24 percent since the 1988 election, while voters of color increased 19 percent. The Latino share of all Nevada voters grew from 12 percent in 2006 to 15 percent in 2010, the largest increase in the western U.S.”
Milbank wrote that hundreds of Latinos recently gathered at the East Las Vegas Community Center, where Cortez Masto was cheered as “la primera y la única,” the “first and only,” in English. “I know I can’t take this community for granted,” Milbank says Cortez Masto told him. Of course, the hope is that she will not always be the “first and only.” She deserves to stay in the U.S. Senate to be the first of many.
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