Denis is a major player in Nevada’s Democratic politics, having been the first Hispanic Senate Majority leader in the state’s history. Last week, The Daily Beast spent the afternoon with him on a “star tour” of sorts featuring young Rubio’s life in Vegas.
“We grew up here in Vegas, whereas there were in Miami—there’s a different political scene. A lot of Cubans were Democrats once upon a time,” Denis told The Daily Beast. “I’m sure he would have [been a Democrat if he stayed in Vegas]. A Democrat here is different from a Democrat in Massachusetts, for example… He didn’t live a charmed life. Our parents weren’t part of the elite class. We were just hard-working, working class.”
Vegas was also where Rubio got his first taste of labor politics, when his father and other members of the Culinary Worker Union held a strike over wages and working conditions in 1984.
Rubio helped support the strike, which was located across the street from Sam’s Town, a hotel where his father worked as a bartender and which still stands today. Now a fiscal conservative, Rubio wrote in his memoir that the strike became his “obsession,” helping to walk the picket line, make signs, and block security staff from videotaping the picketers.