Politico

Latino group spends big on anti-Laxalt ads in Nevada Senate race


A Latino voter mobilization group is launching a multimillion-dollar effort attacking Adam Laxalt, the GOP Senate front-runner to take on Nevada Democratic Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto.

Somos PAC plans to spend $4 million on a statewide TV and digital ad campaign targeting Latino voters as the group aims to keep the first and only Latina in the Senate in office. The ads, shared first with POLITICO, will air in both English and Spanish over the next two months.

The group’s campaign — its first ad buy this cycle and one of Somos’ largest media spends since it launched in 2019 — is the latest reminder that Democrats will need Latinos to turn out in strong numbers if they want to win the battleground state and, ultimately, keep control of the Senate in November.

“Sen. Cortez Masto has done a great job of being out there, talking about the positives of herself and the work she’s doing to help Latinos in Nevada,” said Melissa Morales, founder and president of Somos PAC. “We’re making sure that [Latinos] know who Adam Laxalt is and what his track record is. It’s clear that his policy priorities have been extremely detrimental to the Latino and Hispanic communities of Nevada.”

The ad campaign is only one piece of the work Somos will be doing this cycle in Nevada, where the group has a permanent infrastructure and staff on the ground, Morales said. The group is using “every single tactic necessary to reach people,” including mailers, community organizing, door-to-door canvassing and culture events.

Latinos have long been regarded as a key constituency for Democrats in Nevada, where Cortez Masto won her seat in 2016 by fewer than 27,000 votes. More than 400,000 Latinos are eligible to vote there, making up 20 percent of the state’s total eligible voters.

Nevada is one of only three battleground states — the others are Arizona and Colorado — that is expected to see significantly increased Hispanic turnout this year, according to projections from the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials Educational Fund. The state will see a 5.8 percent jump, compared to 2018.

The English and Spanish-language ads are centered around Latino Nevadans sharing why Laxalt is “not for us.” In one of the ads, a Las Vegas-based Latino doctor talks about Laxalt’s long-time opposition to the Affordable Care Act and how it is the “single most important type of insurance we have in the Latino community.”

Another of the ads is centered around a Latina from Henderson, who talks in her kitchen about how the cost of living has gone up while Laxalt has looked out for big corporations and “not us.” In one Spanish-language ad, a Las Vegas woman who is diabetic talks about how she has to choose between paying for her insulin or rent, followed by her saying she wishes Laxalt cared about her instead of the pharmaceutical industry’s profits.

Cortez Masto is widely considered one of the most vulnerable Senate incumbents. Her reelection bid comes as her home state’s economy is still reeling from the pandemic and Democrats across the country grapple with the weight of inflation and Biden’s low approval ratings.

Cortez Masto’s campaign “is in a decent spot, but there’s just no way the senator’s campaign is ever going to be in a great spot just because of the year she’s running in and the uphill battles that Dems are having to fight everywhere around inflation, the price of gas and all of the above,” said Chuck Rocha, a Democratic strategist and former senior adviser to Sen. Bernie Sanders’ (I-Vt.) presidential campaign. “It just keeps weighing down all of our candidates.”

Republicans, for their part, see Nevada as one of the prime states to pick up a Senate seat. The Senate Leadership Fund, aligned with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, will spend $15 million in ads in Nevada, while the National Republican Senatorial Committee has already reserved $3 million in television ads there.

Democrats have booked significantly more ad time to protect Cortez Masto, with the Majority Leader Chuck Schumer-aligned Senate Majority PAC planning to spend $21 million in Nevada. The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee has also reserved $8.4 million in Nevada.

Laxalt’s campaign in March launched a Latinos for Laxalt coalition with an event in Las Vegas, which included guests, such as former Trump campaign adviser Steve Cortes.

The former Nevada attorney general still needs to win his June primary. Despite leading in the polls and fundraising and being endorsed by former President Donald Trump, he faces an increasingly competitive challenge from political newcomer and Army veteran Sam Brown. Earlier this month, the Nevada GOP voted to endorse Brown over Laxalt.

Morales acknowledged GOP attempts to court Latinos, noting that she feels they’re “trying to shave off people on the edges that they think they can move for support to win an election.”

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