WASHINGTON — Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto, D-Nev., catapulted into Democratic leadership Thursday, becoming the first Latina to chair the party’s Senate campaign arm — after just two years in office.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said Cortez Masto was the party’s first choice to chair the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.
Schumer said Cortez Masto “has demonstrated the attributes we want in a leader: she breaks glass ceilings, is very hardworking, astute politically, an outstanding fundraiser and respected by every member of our caucus.”
Cortez Masto will be chairwoman for the 2020 cycle, when 11 Democrats and 21 Republicans are up for re-election. The slate gives Democrats their best shot to retake control of the Senate from Republicans, who hold a slim majority.
Democrats took two Republican-held seats this year, in Arizona and Nevada, although the GOP padded its majority with Senate wins in Missouri, Indiana and North Dakota. A tight race is still undetermined in Florida, and a runoff election will be held Nov. 27 in Mississippi.
Cortez Masto will succeed Chairman Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., who raised money and helped Democratic incumbents and candidates in this past cycle.
Democrats were not only successful in capturing a Senate seat in Nevada, but the party held two open House seats and won the governor’s race.
“I am committed to replicating the blue wave America saw in Nevada,” Cortez Masto said, “… and electing a Senate Democratic majority in 2020.”
Cortez Masto was elected to the Senate in 2016, a hand-picked successor to former Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, who was considered the architect of a political machine based in Las Vegas that has brought about recent Democratic gains.
She is up for re-election in 2022.
This past election cycle, Cortez Masto raised $10 million for Democratic causes and candidates, including $5.2 million for the Women’s Senate Network and $2 million for the Nevada Democratic Party.
She also campaigned for nine Senate candidates in eight states, including Sen.-elect Jacky Rosen in Nevada, who dispatched Republican incumbent Dean Heller.
In her new role as fundraiser for Senate candidates, Cortez Masto can raise her national profile, which could help her re-election bid and movement up the Democratic leadership ladder.
“She’ll be a great leader of the DSCC and help us fight to regain the majority in 2020,” Schumer said of Cortez Masto.
Leading the fundraising arm of the campaign committee is largely seen as a grueling task, but it’s the first rung on the party’s leadership ladder.
Van Hollen was named chairman after just one year in the Senate, but he served twice in the fundraising role when he was in the House.
Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., was the first woman to chair the DSCC, in the 2001-2003 cycle and again from 2011 to 2013.
Cortez Masto served as Nevada attorney general before her election to the Senate.
She is the first Latina to serve in the Senate and the first Latina elected to Congress from Nevada.
A Las Vegas native, Cortez Masto received degrees from the University of Nevada, Reno and Gonzaga University School of Law.