A group of Latina business owners gathered at a Mexican restaurant to discuss the stakes of Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto losing her seat.
They sat in a portrait of Frida Kahlo, the Mexican feminist icon, one by one. A smoldering pipe was hung in the corner.
Vanessa Barrett, the owner of the restaurant, stated that she felt desperate after nearly losing her business during the 2020 pandemic. In an unsuccessful effort to not cry, she paused and held her nose. Barrett, her husband and an artist who designed the colorful mural decor, built the restaurant at La Vecindad. “I had no idea how I would pay the rent.”
Barreat thanked Cortez Masto for helping her to secure small-business support to help her business recover from the economic downturn.
Cortez Masto became the first Latina to be elected to the Senate in 2016. She needs these women if she hopes to survive Tuesday’s election. Cortez Masto is Nevada’s senior senator and is currently locked in a dead heat against Republican Adam Laxalt. This content is believed to be the Republicans’ best chance to take control of the Senate. The midterm elections in Nevada will see 1 in 5 Nevadans being Latino. Cortez Masto’s campaign, along with allied groups, claims that Latinas are her political salvation.
A recent Univision poll found Cortez Masto leading among Latinos. However, other surveys were mixed and Republicans are making a greater effort to reach those voters.
Cortez Masto’s campaign has been targeting Latinos for months. But she and Somos PAC (a major Latino organization in the state) have targeted Latinas specifically, believing that such women, like those gathered in La Vecindad, could play a significant role in tipping this election. This is on top of the work of the Culinary Union. 60% of its members are Hispanic. They have sent an army of canvassers out to the field to convince voters to vote for Democrats on Tuesday.
Pro-Cortez Masto has worked hard to reach Latina voters via events like this, while canvassing in neighborhoods, in millions of dollars worth of ads targeting women, and messaging about abortion, work conditions, and child care.
In the spring of 2016, the strategy to target Latinas was in place before Cortez Mastro knew who she would be fighting in the general election. Somos PAC (a Democratic-aligned organization that supports Cortez Masto) launched an air attack against Laxalt via Spanish- and English-language TV.
Cortez Masto & Somos PAC believe that working women, who are the heads of their households and leaders in their local communities, workplaces, and churches, are exactly the type of voters they want to see shift more in their favor. Barreat’s restaurant was filled with women who spoke out about the inspiration they received from watching the first Latina become a U.S. Senator. This message Cortez Masto’s supporters believe will resonate with voters on Election Day.
“My daughter wants to go to law school to become a senator because she has a Latina who has done it,” Cecilia Alvarado, a Costa Rican immigrant, says, choking on her words. As an immigrant, that’s my American dream to ensure my daughter has the chance to attend a good college and study law.
“Everyone thinks that a Latina just has someone who doesn’t have an educational background, has many kids [and] is a stay-at-home mom.” We are not seen by the rest of the community as someone who can be a senator.”
One Spanish-language ad slams Laxalt for being “extreme” after he made statements following the leakage of news before Roe v. Wade was overturned by the Supreme Court.
Somos PAC aired new ads at La Vecindad. One of the ads featured Barrett. It was obvious that the target audience was identified: “We deserve senators who care for women and trust women,” said the narrator.
Cortez Masto, the granddaughter of Mexican immigrants, is Cortez Masto. On March 15, her campaign aired its first Spanish-speaking TV ad. It featured a biographical spot that highlighted her family’s connection to Mexico.
She doesn’t look, Latina. But the way she speaks to you and listens to what you have to say, and the way she looks at your face when you talk, make it seem like she cares. Barreat stated that this is how we are. “She made it easy for me to feel at home.”
Cortez Masto’s fight to retain her seat is a reminder of how holding onto turf can be more difficult than taking it. This lesson is familiar to small-business owners.
Barreat later said that she had heard of Barreat, but never imagined that she would care about someone as small and insignificant as herself who was trying to start a business. It means a lot, especially to Latinos. This is the first time I have seen Washingtonians care about small businesses.
It’s one thing to win over Latinas; it’s another to get them to the polls Tuesday. Despite the strong economic headwinds facing Democrats, groups on both sides have noticed signs of low Latino turnout for weeks. While Latino voters nationwide believe that Democrats do a better job with abortion, they prefer the Republican’s economic handling. Democrats have attempted to counter this by referring to rent control as well as abortion. According to a Washington Post/Ipsos poll, abortion was ranked second after inflation by Hispanic voters.
Republicans are also aggressively competing to win Latino votes. One national Senate group sent teams of canvassers into the state to speak to Latinos they identified as persuadable.
Laxalt spoke at a Reno rally and said he was confident in his ability to steal the vote from Democrats.
Laxalt stated that “Hispanic voters are leaving Senator Masto just like Joe Biden because the same reason everyone else is,” “Their policies fail our great nation, and they’re failing Nevada.”