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U.S. Senate hopeful Catherine Cortez Masto proposes debates with opponent Joe Heck

Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Catherine Cortez Masto says she will debate Republican opponent Joe Heck, provided at least one debate is on a Spanish television station.

Cortez Masto’s campaign sent a letter Thursday to Heck’s campaign outlining the conditions, which also indicate that she is willing to participate in three debates. It’s a condition that underscores the importance of the Latino vote in Nevada’s U.S. Senate race for the open seat of departing Democratic Minority Leader Harry Reid.

An estimated 20 percent of Nevada ballots cast in the Nov. 8 general election are expected to come from Latino voters, according to Latino Decisions, a firm that does public opinion research.

Cortez Masto Campaign Manager Scott Fairchild said in a statement the debate proposal is “in line with precedent set by previous Nevada races, but takes the historic step of ensuring at least one debate is hosted by a Spanish-language television station.”

In the letter to Heck Campaign Manager James Langenderfer, Fairchild wrote that having at least one debate hosted by a Spanish-language broadcast outlet would “reflect the growing diversity of our state, as well as the increased role the Hispanic electorate will clearly play in this election to Donald Trump becoming the Republican nominee for president.”

That condition is non-negotiable, the campaign said.

Cortez Masto’s proposal, while flexible on media outlets, calls for having the other debates on KLAS-TV, Channel 8, in Las Vegas and another broadcast from the KNPB-TV studio in Reno, hosted by political journalist Jon Ralston.

Cortez Masto, a former Nevada attorney general, would be the first Latina elected to the U.S. Senate if she wins. Heck, a congressman representing the 3rd Congressional District, is also a physician and brigadier general in the Army Reserve.

Heck campaign spokesman Brian Baluta said Heck’s proposal for debates will include Spanish-language networks.

“We, like most Nevadans, look forward to Ms. Cortez Masto deviating from her very narrow script and actually discussing the issues beyond her partisan talking points,” Baluta said. “And Dr. Heck agrees that Nevada’s Latino community deserves to hear directly from the candidates, as do Asian American Pacific Islanders, veterans, those struggling to find full-time work, ranchers, miners and everybody in between. That is why we will propose a series of issue-oriented debates reaching as many Nevadans as possible, including Spanish-language networks, to clearly illustrate the choice before them this fall.”

The format for a debate on a Spanish outlet is unclear at this point. A spokesman for Cortez Masto said the campaign is open to negotiating whether it would be broadcast live and in English, or taped with translated voice-overs in Spanish.

Contact Ben Botkin at bbotkin@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2904. Find @BenBotkin1 on Twitter.

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