2016 Senate Races: Catherine Cortez Masto Versus Joe Heck in Nevada

Democratic Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid is retiring, leaving an open Senate seat in Nevada. The new candidates are Democrat Catherine Cortez Masto and Republican Joe Heck. The two candidates appeared in one debate.

RESULTS: Catherine Cortez Masto wins and holds this seat for Democrats, 47-45. Republicans hold the Senate.


There are typically 33 Senate elections every two years. With these staggered elections, some years naturally favor Democrats and some favor Republicans, depending upon conditions. 2016 is most favorable for Democrats because both key conditions come together: (1) There are more incumbent Republican seats election this year than Democrats, and (2) this is a presidential election year where Democrats are more likely to show up and vote than in a midterm year.

Despite this ideal set-up for Democrats, the balance of Senate control is still an open question. This seat has been considered the most likely gain for Republicans and polls show this race to be close.


In the Democratic primary, Catherine Cortez Masto won with over 80 percent. In the Republican primary, Joe Heck defeated Sharron Angle, 65 to 23. Sharron Angle was the 2010 Republican Tea Party candidate who lost to Harry Reid by about five percent.


Democrat Catherine Cortez Masto has raised $8,694,746 and Republican Joe Heck has raised $7,441,270 from traditional funding sources. In Super PAC money, “groups supporting Rep. Joe Heck (R-Nev.) spent $9.8 million compared to $2.5 million for those in support of former Nevada Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto.”

But two of the biggest opponents of a Democratic-controlled Senate, the Koch brothers, have made it their mission to defeat Cortez Masto. As of the end of August, the two had spent almost $6 million on the race, more than twice what the Heck campaign has spent itself.


Catherine Cortez Masto was the Attorney General of Nevada for eight years. She was elected twice statewide. In 2015, she was forced to retire due to term limits on the position. Now, she is running for US Senate. Catherine Cortez Masto was previously a prosecutor for the US Attorney, and a chief of staff for Democratic governor Bob Miller. If elected, she would be the first Latina Senator.

Medical doctor Joe Heck is a third-term US Congressman and a member of committees involving armed services, education workforce, and intelligence. He was previously a member of the Nevada State Senate, owner of a medical company with government clients, and an Army brigadier general.


In Congress, Joe Heck voted for “fast track” on trade but has refused to take a stand on Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP). He has also voted for “the sequester” with automatic spending cuts. He voted for banning greenhouse gas regulations, banning troops in Libya, offshore oil drilling, repealing “Obamacare,” and restricting abortion funding. He voted against removing troops from Afghanistan and studying the Keystone pipeline.

Joe Heck supports Social Security privatization, raising retirement age or “growing the retirement age from 67 to 69” while also supporting a minimum Social Security cost of living allowance. He wants to eliminate the estate tax. He supports deregulating energy and opening federal lands to more development. He opposes the Iran deal.

Joe Heck was one of many Republican senatorial candidates who recently converted from supporting to opposing Republican Donald Trump in the presidential race after the “P-word” tape leak.

Catherine Cortez Masto has no legislative voting record. She was intimately involved with the National Mortgage Settlement which “forced [banks] to pay $1.9 billion to Nevadans” as verified in a detailed fact-check correction. She describes more of her prior political activities here.

Catherine Cortez Masto supports the Iran deal and supports “Obamacare.” She opposes raising retirement age or privatizing Social Security.

Both candidates support background checks on gun purchases and stronger “border security.” Neither candidate answered a question about raising taxes on top wage earners in the debate, where moderators were looking for “a number.”


Joe Heck said in the debate that he wants to give immigration “dreamers” a “path to citizenship” and make it easier and quicker for immigrants to bring families in. Criminal immigrants should be deported. However, he voted to defund and sue the president over Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals or DACA.

Catherine Cortez Masto supports bipartisan immigration reform similar to the 2013 bill passed in the Senate.


Last June, Congress narrowly voted to provide fast-track trade authority for the TPP. The bill passed by just five votes and with the support of Rep. Heck. By granting fast-track authority, Rep. Heck gave up his ability to amend the TPP should it come up for a vote. While Rep. Heck has not indicated whether he will support the final version of the TPP, it could become a prominent campaign issue due to the larger mood of the electorate and given the public opposition to fast-track expressed by Rep. Heck’s probable Democratic opponent, Nevada Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto.