Law Grad Catherine Cortez Masto Becomes First Latina in U.S. Senate


November 15, 2016
LAS VEGAS – Catherine Cortez Masto, a 1990 Gonzaga University School of Law alumna and former Nevada attorney general, is the first Latina and first woman from Nevada elected to the U.S. Senate. The Democrat beat Rep. Joe Heck last week to fill the seat of Sen. Harry Reid, the Democratic minority leader who is retiring.

She becomes the first Gonzaga graduate elected to the U.S. Senate. Four Gonzaga alumni have become U.S. representatives: Compton I. White, Sr., D-Idaho (1933-1947 and 1949-1951), former House Speaker Thomas Foley, D-Wash., (1965-1995, speaker from 1989-1995) and GU Law alumni Lloyd Meeds, D-Wash. (1965-1979) and George Nethercutt, R-Wash. (1995-2005).

After the results came in, Cortez Masto tweeted, “I’m proud to be Nevada’s 1st female and our nation’s 1st Latina senator. It’s about time our government mirrors the diversity of our nation.”

Her race against Heck was among the most competitive in the nation this election. The election of Cortez Masto, whose grandfather immigrated from Chihuahua, Mexico, boosts the number of Latinos in the Senate from three to four, including Sens. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Robert Menendez (D-N.J.).

The number of women of color in the U.S. Senate quadrupled on election night from one to four with Cortez Masto, Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., and Kamala Harris, D-Calif., joining incumbent Sen. Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii.

“We are so confident that she will bring her experience, her intelligence and her passion for justice and the rule of law to the U.S. Senate,” noted Jane Korn, dean of the Gonzaga Law School. “And it’s good to know the people of Nevada and the United States will benefit from her election.”

Born and raised in Las Vegas, Cortez Masto served two terms as Nevada’s Attorney General from 2007 to 2015 when she helped pass laws to combat the manufacturing, distribution and use of methamphetamines. She also worked to improve the laws preventing sex trafficking and violence against women and to protect children from sexual predators. In addition, she led a fight against home foreclosure fraud, securing nearly $2 billion for Nevada homeowners from banks as part of the National Mortgage Settlement.

In her victory speech, Cortez Masto said she will advocate for equal pay for equal work, an increase of the minimum wage, paid family leave, environmental protection, and especially comprehensive immigration reform.

“I believe we must pass comprehensive immigration reform with a pathway to citizenship,” she said.

Cortez Masto also took to Facebook to thank her supporters:

“Thank you to Nevada for electing me to represent you. I promise you I will not stop fighting for what I think is right for this state and country,” she noted. “I believe our diversity is our strength. As the first Latina Senator, I will use my seat at the table to fight for diversity.”