A prominent Hispanic media group was to honor Catherine Cortez Masto with a coveted award. She didn’t even introduce herself.

LAS VEGAS — Around 8:30 p.m. Friday night, three of Nevada’s top Latino Democrats posed arm-in-arm at the Factory of Dreams banquet hall in Las Vegas, the women eager to show off their community leadership appreciation awards newly won Hispanic. But one winner was missing from the photoshoot—Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto (D.), who snubbed the event.

Cortez Masto often invokes her status as “the first Latina ever elected to the U.S. Senate” in her close re-election bid against Republican Adam Laxalt, which could determine who controls the Senate next year. This headline partly prompted El Concilio Hispano, a Hispanic media group that runs a best latin speaking radio program in Nevada, to honor the Democrat at his 2022 Hispanic Heritage Month Leadership Awards. The other three of the event guests of honor— Las Vegas City Councilwoman Olivia Diaz, State Assemblyman and Nevada AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Susie Martinez (D.), and Lieutenant Governor Lisa Cano Burkhead (D.), who is also on the ballot in November — accepted their awards in person. Cortez Masto sent a substitute.

Cortez Masto’s decision to scrap the event, which included a cross-section of Hispanic community leaders, is curious with Election Day just weeks away. Hispanic voters could very well decide the political fate of Cortez Masto — about 20% of Nevada’s midterm voters are expected to be Latinos, according to a national association of Latino elected and appointed. report. Years ago, that stat would have been music to Cortez Masto’s ears. The Democrat in 2016 appreciated 61% of Latin votes, according to exit polls. Six years later, however, Latino support for Cortez Masto appears to have dwindled considerably, as many working-class Nevadans distrust President Joe Biden’s economy. An October poll of USA today and the University of Suffolk found that only 49% of Hispanic voters support Cortez Masto.

Cortez Masto’s campaign did not return multiple requests for comment ahead of Friday’s El Concilio Hispano event. Four days after the ceremony, campaign communications director Josh Marcus-Blank told the Free tag Cortez Masto missed the event because she had to “be in Reno”. Marcus-Blank ignored questions asking if the senator’s trip to Reno was planned before she received the invitation from El Concilio Hispano.

Both in Washington and Nevada, Cortez Masto has long kept a low profile, an approach that has changed little as the Democrat fights for her political life in one of the nation’s most closely watched Senate contests. On the eve of former President Donald Trump’s October 9 visit to northern Nevada, for example, Cortez Masto’s counterprogramming consisted of a private speech to Culinary Workers Union canvassers alongside Sen. Chris Coons (D., Del.), whose trip to Nevada has not been made public. When the Free Washington Beacon visited Cortez Masto’s Las Vegas office a few days later, a staffer said she “unfortunately” had “no information about the senator’s schedule at this time.” A visit to the Nevada State Democratic Party office yielded a similar result: a press secretary say it Free tag he was “unaware” of upcoming public campaign events. The Free tag is not the first outlet to be bamboozled by Cortez Masto—Nevada Independent CEO Jon Ralston in September accused the Democrat of “refusing to let [his] journalists ask him about his case.”

Cortez Masto’s understated campaign style helps incumbent avoid ‘potential faux pas’, Ralston Noted last month. But it also makes it difficult for the Democrat to energize Nevada voters, especially as they face one of the worst inflation rates in the nation. “I haven’t seen her at all,” said Victor Roque, a Las Vegas real estate agent who immigrated from Cuba. Free tag. “Democrats are hiding because they don’t seem to like answering questions. And that’s a problem.”

Laxalt and the Republican National Committee have responded by aggressively courting Latino voters, an outreach effort they say will secure them the Senate seat in November. Laxalt held a Hispanic Heritage Month event Thursday at the committee’s Las Vegas Hispanic Community Center, which saw Republican hammerhead Biden and Cortez Masto in the race. main problems: inflation and the economy. Laxalt specifically pointed to her opponent’s decision to vote for trillions of dollars in spending under Biden, saying Cortez Masto “claims she’s independent…but she’s never opposed those policies.”

“We have a chance in this race to save the American dream,” Laxalt said. “If we get Senator Masto out of office, the government will stop spending, it will stop raising inflation, and it will stop raising gas prices.”

Cortez Masto attempted to weather the storm by focusing primarily on abortion. The Democrat and her campaign allies spent over $6 million on abortion-related ads alone, and fundraising messages from Cortez Masto often argue that a Laxalt victory would lead to a nationwide ban on abortion. But some prominent liberals fear the issue isn’t enough to give them a victory in Nevada. “A lot of these consultants think that if we just run abortion sites, we’ll win. I don’t think so,” said veteran strategist James Carville. Told the Associated Press last week. “It’s a good problem. But if you sit there and they hammer you on crime and the cost of living, you have to be more aggressive than just yelling abortion every other word.”

Carville’s assessment is particularly compelling given Nevada’s unique economic turmoil over the past two years. Democratic Gov. Steve Sisolak ordered the closure of all ‘non-essential businesses’ statewide – including casinos, hotels, restaurants and bars – in March 2020, decimating vast tourism industries and services from Las Vegas. As the city’s casinos and restaurants reopened to full capacity in the summer of 2021, Nevada business owners began to battle inflation and supply chain issues under Biden. A bar manager told the Free tag it was forced to raise prices “even before inflation rose” as it navigated a slump in sales due to the shutdown.

Now inflation is costing the average Nevada family nearly $10,000 per year. The average price of a gallon of gasoline, for example, is the fourth in the nation at $5.23. And not all service sector jobs have returned. About 12,000 members of the Culinary Workers Union have yet to return to their pre-pandemic jobs, according to the Washington Post.

“Since Joe Biden took office, I’ve been struggling. It’s been really hard, to the point that maybe I should find another job, just to make ends meet,” resident Tomas Ramos said. of Las Vegas, a retired Army veteran. say it Free tag. “With gas, I don’t really go anywhere. Groceries too. Everything has become very expensive in the last two years.”

The volunteer army of the Cortez Masto Culinary Workers Union, long a staple of the late Harry Reid’s Nevada political machine, is catching up with inflation-focused voters like Ramos. The union canvassers were shouted in popular areas of Las Vegas, according to the New York Timeswith a voter exclaiming, “You think I’m going to vote for these Democrats after all they’ve done to ruin the economy?”

In the final weeks of the race, the Laxalt campaign will no doubt repeat this sentiment as often as possible, especially for Latinos. “The message is the economy, inflation,” said Jesus Marquez, Laxalt’s senior Latino engagement advisor. “And we don’t lose the message.” The campaign believes it will win in November if it receives 40% of the Latino vote, a benchmark that Marquez and the Republican National Committee’s Hispanic communications director, Jaime Florez, expect to achieve.

“If Democrats think Hispanics are going to stop worrying about inflation because of the abortion issue,” Florez said Thursday, “the election results will show them the colossal size of their mistake.”

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