New York Times (Editorial)
November 2, 2016
The Senate race in Nevada between Catherine Cortez Masto, a Democrat, and Representative Joe Heck, a Republican, is gripping on several levels. Nevada is the only state where Republicans have a solid chance of winning a Democratic Senate seat this year. The seat has belonged for 30 years to Harry Reid, the current minority leader, who is not seeking re-election. A Republican victory would thus be not only a loss for the Democrats but a personal embarrassment for a venerable power broker. It would also be a triumph for the Koch brothers, who say they’re seeking poetic justice after years of being denounced by Mr. Reid for their conservative politics, and are spending lots of money to make that happen.
Mr. Reid calls Mr. Heck, a three-term congressman, “an absolute stooge for these right-wing nut cases.” He hand-picked Ms. Cortez Masto, a former Nevada attorney general, to succeed him and is throwing the state Democratic machine behind her battle in a race that is now too close to call. Ms. Cortez Masto, the granddaughter of a Mexican immigrant, would be the first Latina to enter the Senate. Her victory would be a proud repudiation of Donald Trump’s anti-immigrant platform in a state where Latinos’ proportion of the electorate has grown to 17 percent from 10 percent in 2004.
Ms. Cortez Masto addressed a host of problems during her years as attorney general, from 2007 to 2015: drug use, fraud schemes exploiting senior citizens, domestic violence and sexual assault.
When the 2008 financial crisis left Nevada with one of the nation’s highest unemployment rates, Ms. Cortez Masto started a broad effort to hold predatory lenders to account. In 2010, she defied the state’s Republican governor in declining to join other attorneys general in filing suit against the federal government to block an expansion of Medicaid as part of the Affordable Care Act. The League of Conservation Voters credits her help in winning several environmental battles.
On immigration, a critical issue in Nevada, Ms. Cortez Masto worked with Republicans in the State Legislature to combat human trafficking, and she supports a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants.
Mr. Heck is a doctor and brigadier general in the U.S. Army Reserve who ran the trauma center in a field hospital outside Baghdad during the Iraq war. He seems torn between moderate voters in his district south of Las Vegas and the radical rightists in Nevada’s G.O.P. apparatus. He says he supports a path to legalization for undocumented immigrants, paired with tougher border controls and identity checks, but he also joined Republicans in opposing President Obama’s efforts to protect undocumented children and their parents from deportation.
Mr. Heck has a good reputation for constituent service, but on a broad range of policies his views are indistinguishable from those of most other House Republicans. He’s voted to repeal Obamacare, defund Planned Parenthood and block measures to combat climate change.
He was an early, enthusiastic supporter of Mr. Trump. Asked, cameras rolling, whether he trusted Mr. Trump with the nation’s nuclear codes, his answer was, “Why wouldn’t I?” It wasn’t until the infamous “Access Hollywood” tape was released last month that Mr. Heck made a tactical retreat, saying, “Americans deserve better.”
Nevadans deserve better than Mr. Heck, whose votes accomplish little for Nevada’s workers. Neither candidate possesses Mr. Reid’s long record of service to his home state, but Ms. Cortez Masto would be a far more faithful steward of his legacy.
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