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Cortez Masto to head DSCC

Humberto Sanchez
Humberto Sanchez

UPDATE @ 8:09 PM

Nevada Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto will be named chair of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, The Nevada Independent has learned. A source close to the senator has said the announcement will be made Thursday morning.


Nevada Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto is being considered by Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer for a two-year stint heading up the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC), an appointment that would raise her national profile as the leader of the Senate Democrats’ effort to win back the majority in 2020.

“Senator Cortez Masto has discussed with Leader Schumer the possibility of chairing the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. No decisions have been made,” said a spokesman in her office.

As she headed in to vote on Wednesday, Cortez Masto was tight-lipped on the matter and declined to say whether an announcement would be forthcoming.

She reiterated that point on the way out of Schumer’s office Wednesday evening.

A Schumer aide also would not confirm or deny any details, but indicated that an announcement could come soon. Schumer, as Democratic leader, is tasked with making the DSCC appointment.

Politico first reported last week that Cortez Masto was being recruited for the post.

As the first Latina senator in the nation’s history, Cortez Masto’s elevation to the post would strike a chord with the theme of the 2018 midterm elections, which elected a record number of women to Congress—128—and boosted the presence of minorities, including the first two Native American women, the first two Muslim women and the first Latina from Texas.

If selected, Cortez Masto would be only the second woman to have held the post after Washington Sen. Patty Murray, who most recently ran the DSCC for the two-year congressional session that began in 2011. Murray has been a mainstay in the Senate Democratic leadership and will continue to serve as Assistant Democratic Leader for the session that begins next year.

DSCC chair Sen. Chris Van Hollen of Maryland said Tuesday that he has no interest in keeping the post for the 116th Congress, the two-year congressional session, which starts in January.

Senate Minority Whip Dick Durbin, the number two Democrat in the Senate, said there are a couple of senators being considered in addition to Cortez Masto, but declined to name them.

He also said the job is typically difficult to fill because it requires a lot of travel and fundraising to help Democratic candidates win their races around the nation.

“You usually have to drag somebody” into the post, Durbin said. “It’s a hard job. But there is a senator or two who is very interested.”

The upside of the post is that the DSCC chair builds a lot of goodwill within the caucus and with senators whom they help win elections, which could serve the campaign committee chief well in any fight for a leadership position. The DSCC chair also builds national fundraising connections that could aid in a run for higher office or for president. And the DSCC gets a lot of media attention as the face of the Democratic Party’s efforts to win Senate control each election cycle.

The Senate map is more favorable for Democrats in 2020 than in 2018 when 26 Democratic seats were up for election versus only nine seats for Republicans. In 2020, there will be 21 Republican Senate seats up for election and 12 for Democrats, excluding the Mississippi seat held by Republican Cindy Hyde-Smith. She failed to win over 50 percent of the vote in her special election to serve the remaining two years of Thad Cochran’s term and faces Democrat Mike Espy in a runoff on Nov. 27.

Despite the Democratic-friendly map, the 2020 election will be a challenge for the DSCC chair no matter who is appointed. The Democrats will need to hold on to tough seats like that of Doug Jones in deep-red Alabama and Jeanne Shaheen in New Hampshire, which has a history of swinging between the parties. The next DSCC chair will also have his or her work cut out for them as all but two of the Republicans up for re-election in 2020 are from ruby-red states which President Donald Trump won in 2016.

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