LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — Democratic Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto said Nevada was crucial to the presidential nominating process as the Democratic Party moved Nevada up a spot in the primary order and as the recently re-elected Las Vegas native looked toward the next Senate session.
The Democratic National Committee moved Friday to make South Carolina the first primary state in February 2024. Nevada and New Hampshire would follow three days later on the first Tuesday of the month.
In 2021, the Nevada Legislature voted to switch to primaries from caucuses and schedule the voting process for the first Tuesday in February. The mail-in ballot process would begin weeks earlier, per state law.
The DNC’s changes only affect the Democratic primary order. While the Republican nominating process will occur on the same day, Nevada’s order among the top four states for the GOP does not change.
“Why should Nevada be the first primary state?” 8 News Now Investigator David Charns asked Cortez Masto on Friday.
“I think Nevada is crucial,” Cortez Masto said in an interview minutes before the DNC announced the changes. “Whether we are now first or second, I think it is important that we are there in these presidential races. What I know from my last election as Democrats just in general is we need to be talking to people and the working class. We need to be talking to these families and talking about what matters to them and focused and fighting for them. Nevada is the perfect state to get that.”
President Joe Biden has said he will seek re-election in 2024. At age 80, he would be the oldest presidential nominee. It is rare for members from the sitting president’s party to challenge him or her in a primary.
“If President Biden runs for re-election I will support him,” Cortez Masto said, highlighting Biden’s work passing the bi-partisan infrastructure package, the American Rescue Plan, the Inflation Reduction Act and the CHIPS and Science Act.
“These are all things that I was able to get around in the state and talked about how we have benefited and helped working families here in Nevada,” she said.
“Should he run?” Charns asked.
“That’s his decision to make.”
Beginning her second term as senator – the chamber’s first Latina – Cortez Masto said she wanted to focus on price gauging, mental health and immigration.
“We need to do more to address the mental health needs in Nevada and across this county and bring more resources to fill in the gaps,” she said. “Not just on the crisis mode of it when that first call is made, but short term and long term, and that’s going to be my focus.”
Cortez Masto has worked to protect undocumented immigrants brought to the country as children, known colloquially as Dreamers.
“We have so many Dreamers in our community,” she said. “DACA is still an important issue. I’m not giving up. I’ve just been in conversations about how we continue to push the envelope, continue to push the administration and my colleagues, including some of my Republican colleagues, and say, ‘Let’s do it right.’”
Cortez Masto won re-election last month in a tight race against former Nevada Attorney General Adam Laxalt, a Republican. Cortez Masto won by about 7,000 votes.
“What did Adam Laxalt say to you when he called and conceded?” Charns asked.
“I think it’s personal, but he did make the call,” she said. “And he released a statement. And that’s more than I received in the last election when I ran for Senate.”