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/ Source: NBC News

Outgoing Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid on Wednesday endorsed Democrat Catherine Cortez Masto shortly after she announced her bid to run for Reid’s seat.

“She’s spent a lifetime fighting to protect Nevada families. And I know she will continue that work in the Senate,” Reid said in an email to supporters. “The first Latina to serve as Nevada's Attorney General, Catherine's election to this seat would be historic. She would be the first Latina ever to serve as a United States Senator.”

Reid announced last month he would not run for re-election once his current term ends in early 2017. The top Democrat in the Senate would have faced a bruising re-election and campaign, and an eye injury on New Year’s Day gave his family “time to ponder and to think” about the future.

Cortez Masto, 51, left a position with the Nevada System of Higher Education on Tuesday. The race to replace Reid is expected to be highly competitive, especially if Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval decides to run.


-- Kelly O'Donnell and Andrew Rafferty