Top staff for Nevada senators reflect diversity – and that’s rare, says report

coffee klatch
Sens. Catherine Cortez Masto and Jacky Rosen with constituents in Washington D.C. last year. (Nevada Current file photo).

Nevada is one of the few states where diversity is reflected in the top staff hired by U.S. senators, according to a new report by the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies.

People of color make up 40 percent of the country’s population, but that diversity is typically not reflected in Senate personal office top staff. People of color make up only 11 percent of all chiefs of staff, legislative directors and communications directors.

coffee klatch
Sens. Catherine Cortez Masto and Jacky Rosen with constituents in Washington D.C. last year. (Nevada Current file photo)

Nevada is an exception.

The report found that people of color make up 51.3 percent of Nevada’s total population and 50 percent of top staff within the personal offices of Sens. Catherine Cortez Masto and Jacky Rosen, who are both Democrats.

In the 10 states with the highest percentages of residents who are people of color, Nevada was the only one that had reached parity. Two other states — Hawaii and New Mexico — had 50 percent top staff positions filled by people of color, but those states have larger percentages of residents who are people of color — 78.2 and 62.9 percent, respectively.

Four of the top ten — Maryland, Georgia, Florida and Arizona — had zero people of color in top staff positions.

The report also found that Latinos make up 29 percent of Nevada residents and 50 percent of top staff within Cortez Masto’s and Rosen’s offices.

In 2015, when Nevada was represented by Republican Dean Heller and Democrat Harry Reid, only 16.7 percent of top staff were people of color. In 2016, Catherine Cortez Masto became the first Latina ever elected to the U.S. Senate. In 2018, Jacky Rosen defeated incumbent Heller.

Cortez Masto is one of only four senators recognized in the report as having more than one top staff of color. The others were Sens. Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) and Brian Schatz (D-Hi.)

Rosen was one of the 28 senators who had at least one person of color in a top position.

The report’s author, LaShonda Brenson noted in her introduction the substantial influence these top staff members can wield, writing, “Unelected top staff in personal offices play an essential role in the U.S. Senate. These staffers often provide political and policy expertise, develop legislation, meet with constituents, act as surrogate for senators, manage Senate offices, and hire, supervise and terminate employees.”

April Corbin Girnus
April Corbin Girnus is an award-winning journalist with a decade of media experience. She has been a beat writer at Las Vegas Sun, a staff writer at LEO Weekly, web editor of Las Vegas Weekly and a blogger documenting North American bike share systems’ efforts to increase ridership in underserved communities. An occasional adjunct journalism professor, April steadfastly rejects the notion that journalism is a worthless major. Amid the Great Recession, she earned a B.A. in journalism from the University of Nevada Las Vegas, where she served as editor-in-chief of the student newspaper. She later earned an M.A. in media studies and a graduate certificate in media management from The New School for Public Engagement. April currently serves on the board of the Society of Professional Journalists Las Vegas pro chapter. A stickler about municipal boundary lines, April enjoys teaching people about unincorporated Clark County. She grew up in Sunrise Manor and currently resides in Paradise with her husband, two children and three mutts.