Friday, May 24, 2024

Sen. Cortez Masto hires a Latino chief of Staff

Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto, who made history as the first Latina elected to the U.S. Senate, hired Reynaldo Benitez to be her chief of staff, making him one of two Latinos to hold that influential Senate job starting next year.

Cortez Masto, D-Nev., announced Benitez’s promotion to the senior position on Friday. Benitez, 32, was working as her special adviser and before that, her communications director.

Chiefs of staff generally are the highest ranking and highest paid legislative staff members. Currently, the only Latino Senate chief of staffs are Bianca Ortiz Wertheim, who works for Sen. Tom Udall, D-N.M. and Susie Perez Quinn who works for Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla, who was not reelected.

Benitez is replacing Scott Fairchild, who Cortez Masto tapped as executive director of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. Members of Congress have faced backlash for years over the lack of diversity in the staff in their Capitol Hill offices in the House and Senate.

Larry Gonzalez, a founding principal for the Raben Group, said this hiring is a step forward when it comes to representation. “It’s walking the walk instead of talking the talk,” Gonzalez told NBC News. “It’s a great choice. Hopefully, it’s reflective of a new kind of leadership that hires not only people who are qualified, but that are reflective of the district or state the (House or Senate members) represent.”

Benitez, who was born in Mexico to a Mexican mother and a Cuban father, and moved to the United States when he was 12, said Cortez Masto’s staff now is “incredibly diverse.” He said the majority of the staff are women, with several members also being LGBTQ and others who are from communities of color.

“Being chief of staff in the U.S. Senate, I know I’m bringing a different perspective than other chiefs of staff,” Benitez said. “I’m going to be able to influence the legislative process based on my life experience and background and that’s something we don’t have a lot of in Congress.”