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U.S. Senate: Catherine Cortez Masto - Democratic

Name: Catherine Cortez Masto

Office: U.S. Senate

Party Affiliation: Democratic 

Website: catherinecortezmasto.com

INTERVIEW HIGHLIGHTS:

Many people have felt a lot of fear and anxiety around this year’s election:

So, what people are looking for is somebody who: one, understands their struggles, but two, is also going to fight for them. The frustration that I see and hear from those working families and those people is when you open the paper or turn on the news all you see coming out of Washington is bipartisan bickering. People putting the interest of the party before their interests or ahead of the interest of the country. And that is what needs to change.  

How are you going to change the partisanship in Washington?

It starts with building relationships. It starts with knowing who you are working with, knowing their family, knowing who they are. I was fortunate enough to be the attorney general here in Nevada for eight years. And I will tell you I worked not only with Democratic attorneys general but some of my colleagues and best friends are Republicans. Because it was building relationships with them and focusing from there how we work together to solve problems.

Support comes from

How do we solve the issues surrounding immigration?

We make it a priority. It passed out of the Senate. The United States Senate had a bi-partisan version of bill and we need to continue to make this a priority. This is personal for me because my grandfather came from Chihuahua, Mexico, came to the United States, served in our military, became a United States citizen, and brought his young family here to Las Vegas in the 40s. They worked hard. He was a baker. My grandmother worked at Von Tobel’s [hardware store]… My father did the same thing. He parked cars at the Dunes hotel-casino and he worked very hard with my mother over the years. And then eventually, he served in this community… as a county commissioner and head of the convention and visitors authority.

That story… that’s the American Dream. That’s no different than many other families that are living here in Nevada that I’ve met with.

It requires us to start focusing on the best interest of the country, knowing that we pass bipartisan comprehensive immigration reform not only would it address this issue that we’re fighting about but it would contribute to the economy.

What does comprehensive immigration reform look like to you?

It is a tough but fair pathway to citizenship for many people and it is also ensuring that we’re bringing them out of the shadows. We don’t compromise on any of our national security, border security. There are things that we put in place and continue to put in place to have an immigration system that works for everyone. But, you have to do all of it. You have to work together to address all of the issues when it comes to passing comprehensive immigration reform.  

We have to get beyond the divisive rhetoric and really figure out: what are we trying to solve here? What are we trying to do at the end of the day? When I talk about a tough but fair pathway to citizenship, it is holding people accountable but still moving people forward to pass comprehensive immigration reform.

Policing and race relations have been big topic of conversations over the past few years. So do all lives matter do black lives matter? Do you understand the distinction?

I do. I think we should be listening. I think this is an important discussion we’re having right now in our country. It requires us to pay attention to what’s going on. It requires us to address what we’re seeing happening in our communities.

I am a big proponent of community policing. What I mean by that is actually being part of the community and working with the communities. So that, at the end of the day, we’re not just responding when a crime occurs. We’re actually building relationships before that occurs. We’re understanding who we are in the community. There is a sensitivity to the members of our community and we all understand one another and working together.

I think we can bridge that gap. We can work together but it also requires training and sensitivity and listening to what the community is saying. We have to listen.

Kaufman: What are they saying?

Cortez Masto: They’re saying there are concerns about how they’re being treated and there’s valid concerns as you see across the country. We should always be paying attention what’s happening in the community.

What is your opinion on the Trans-Pacific Partnership or TPP?

I’m opposed to it. I’m opposed to the fast track and the TPP. For this reason, when we’re talking about passing the TPP and we’re talking about shipping jobs overseas and not keeping them here…. We should be focused on growing jobs and if we’re not then we should have some sort of trade assistance to help people who are losing those jobs to help them with a skill or trade for a new job. That should be part of this discussion, but it’s not. It’s not part of the TPP and that concerns me.

I don’t like agreements negotiated in secret. That bothers me.  I’ve seen it when I was dealing with some issues as attorney general. I think when we’re talking about something as important as this everybody should be at the table. Every key stakeholder should be there to weigh in on what we should do moving forward, if we’re going to move forward on this particular issue.

Healthcare affordability and the price of prescription drugs are still issues. What do you think needs to be done about those problems?

This is another example of how we can do a better job of improving access to healthcare in our country. The Affordable Care Act it has addressed some of the most egregious practices of the insurance industry. It has allowed young individuals to stay on their parents’ plans and it has allowed more people to have insurance.

Is it perfect? No. There are things that are strong about it that we need to keep, but there are things about it that we need to fix.

We need to work together in a bipartisan manner to really focus on what should be done in our country when it comes to healthcare, because here is the issue at the end of the day, we are a rich nation and I don’t think anyone should die because they cannot afford healthcare. And, I don’t think anyone should go bankrupt because they have medical bills.   

What do you think about gun control efforts?

I think that it is ridiculous to me, in this day and age, when we’re really trying to reduce gun violence and address gun violence in our communities that a terrorist that is on a No Fly list can’t get on a plane, but can purchase a gun in the United States? That is crazy to me.

I support Question 1. I think we should expand the background checks. I think we should close those private gun show loopholes.

There are concerns that the nuclear waste dump at Yucca Mtn. could be revived when Sen. Harry Reid leaves office. What do you think?

I’ve been that fight since 1990 and will continue to carry it on. I’m very familiar with the fight against Yucca Mtn. and actually as the attorney general continued the fight in our federal courts and before the NRC, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

This is an area we need to be united on. There’s no doubt I can work with Senator Heller and focus on how we can address this issue, because it is not something we want in this state. And it is shown that it is a safety and health issue for the people here in Nevada.

Some people in Nevada and around the West have expressed support for having federal land transferred to the states. What do you think?

There is no doubt in my mind that our state is not in a position to be able to manage a return of all those federal lands. We are still playing catchup from the recession that we’ve seen. We still need to fund education, mental health issues, healthcare issues, in this state. There is no way that if anybody tries to turn those federal lands back to the state to manage that we would be able to manage them. If we can’t manage them, there is concern that they’ll fall into private hands and will not be open for access for the public to utilize. That I have a concern about.

Should you be elected an issue you’ll have to deal with is the vacancy on the Supreme Court. What are you looking for in a Supreme Court justice?

It is about finding somebody who is fair and balanced, who respects the rule of law, who has a good understanding of the real world and the interaction between that rule of law and how the real world works. I want it to be a diverse Supreme Court… that reflects our communities now.   

Do you think the future Congress has the political will to tackle campaign finance reform and possibly pass legislation that invalidates Citizens United?

I have the will, because what we have seen in our communities because of Citizens United, which I think is a horrible, horrible law, is just tragic. It is big money coming in to buy this election. I can tell you in my race alone the Koch brothers have been here over a year and so far they’ve put over $12 million against me in this race for U.S. Senate, to buy this election.

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