Nevada Dem touts Latina heritage after years of peddling gender-neutral term
Collin Anderson • October 12, 2022 5:00 a.m.
Nevada Democratic Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto is dropping her years-long use of the gender-neutral term “Latinx” just in time for her close re-election bid against Republican Adam Laxalt, which is expected to hinge on Hispanic voters.
Cortez Masto began peddling the term “woke” shortly after former President Donald Trump entered the White House. When Trump’s first wave of Cabinet candidates did not include a Latino, Cortez Masto in February 2017 tweeted, “I don’t believe there isn’t a single Latinx worthy of any of Trump’s Cabinet positions. That’s sheer ignorance.” A few days later, Trump announced his intention to appoint Alexander Acosta, the son of Cuban refugees, as Secretary of Labor.
Cortez Masto’s use of “Latinx” continued over the next two years. In September 2018, the Democrat applauded the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, for “bringing attention to all the ways the Latinx community has contributed to Southern NV”. Months later, in June 2019, Cortez Masto implored Democratic presidential candidates to avoid taking “Latinx voters in NV…for granted.” Cortez Masto also used “Latinx” in official press and campaign materials. “Nevada is one of the most diverse states in America with a vibrant Latinx community,” she said in a statement. “You can’t tell the story of Las Vegas without hearing the Latinx voices,” she wrote in another. Cortez Masto’s campaign Twitter account, on the other hand, did not use the term “Latina” for about three years, from October 2017 to August 2020.
Now Cortez Masto is ditching the unpopular term as she woos Hispanic voters. Many of the Democrat’s digital ads tout her status as “the first Latina ever elected to the U.S. Senate,” and Cortez Masto’s latest campaign press releases swap “Latinx” for “Latino.” The change comes as a tacit admission that Cortez Masto’s past embrace of progressive rhetoric could alienate a crucial voting bloc in its race against Laxalt. According to a December 2021 Bendixen & Amandi International poll, only 2% of Hispanic American voters use the term “Latinx,” while 40% say the term offends them and 30% say they would be less likely to support a politician who uses it. . About 20% of Nevada’s midterm voters are expected to be Latinos, according to a report by the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed.
Cortez Masto, who did not return a request for comment, will face Laxalt at the polls in just a month, and the Democrat’s top allies are sounding the alarm that disgruntled Hispanic voters may not turn out for economic reasons. Inflation has hit Nevada particularly hard – the average price of a gallon of gas, for example, is $5.40, 32% higher than the national average. This problem caused some working-class voters in Nevada to fire the Democrats. “You think I’m going to vote for these Democrats after all they’ve done to ruin the economy? an East Las Vegas voter asked a Culinary Workers Union canvasser last week.
“That’s what keeps me awake at night,” Liberal Party chairman Somos PAC told NBC News. “What I’m looking at is: are Latinos really going to vote this year?”
Prior to their Senate contests, Cortez Masto and Laxalt served as Attorney General of Nevada. Cortez Masto held the position from 2007 to 2015 – during that time thousands of rape kits in the state went untested. When Laxalt took over from Cortez Masto, the Republican got $3.7 million to “clear the backlog.” Nearly 7,400 kits were sent to labs for testing by the end of Laxalt’s tenure. As Nevada’s top cop, Cortez Masto also accepted more than $61,000 in gifts from donors, including a luxury handbag and free tickets to shows and sporting events. Laxalt gave up the practice when he took over.
Cortez Masto often calls herself “America’s most vulnerable US senator” in her fundraising materials, and a recent poll backs up that sentiment. According to an October CNN poll, Laxalt leads Cortez Masto by 2 points.