‘Mo’ Denis ready to lead legislative Democrats

CARSON CITY — He doesn’t smoke or drink or swear. He was an Eagle Scout and the state PTA president. His priority is being a good father for his five children and a good husband for Susan, his wife of 28 years.

And at a time when the ethics and credibility of politicians seem to be waning, this man is a politician who espouses principles, a politician rising quickly in clout in Nevada.

State Sen. Moises "Mo" Denis, D-Las Vegas, is the shoo-in to become the Democratic leader and probable majority leader of the state Senate during the next legislative session in 2013.

Holding the most powerful Senate position will give him influence over every issue the Legislature tackles. If Democrats retain the majority, then Denis will name committee members and chairmen, determine what bills live and die, joust with the governor and manage the platform of his party.

Denis also would become the first person of Hispanic heritage to lead a political party in the state Senate. He represents state Senate District 2, the area east of Las Vegas Boulevard that runs from Charleston Boulevard in the south to Nellis Air Force Base in the north.

District 2 is the only Senate district with a majority Hispanic population.

"If I can help, I am willing to step up and be a leader," said Denis, a legislator since 2004 best known for his work on public education reform at this year’s session.

GOP WILL CHALLENGE DENIS

With state Senate Majority Leader Steven Horsford running next year for Congress, Denis, 50, is destined to replace him as party leader.

But Denis won’t find it any easier than Horsford did in dealing with Republicans if he tries to push tax increases or what they consider liberal legislation.

State Sen. Michael Roberson, R-Las Vegas, already warns that Denis will face the wrath of Republicans in 2013 if he tries to increase the size of state government.

As the likely Republican leader, Roberson will become Denis’ chief nemesis.

He noted Denis last spring backed the extension of $620 million in taxes that would have expired and pushed into law a bill over Republican opposition that sets standards for "musical therapists." But Roberson conceded Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval supported Denis’ positions, too.

"Mo is a nice guy who may turn out as the perfect minority leader," Roberson said. "He may be mild-mannered, but he votes lock step with Senator Horsford."

Denis cannot be baited into criticizing Republicans.

"At the Nevada Legislature, we need to work together," Denis said. "I always try to have good thoughts about people. People say I am too nice. But life is too short. We can focus on the negative, but why not focus on the positive?"

Eric Herzik, a political science professor at the University of Nevada, Reno, wonders if Denis’ talk about harmony with Republicans will end once legislators return to Carson City. Politicians always talk about working together, but forget that talk once they bear down on issues, Herzik said.

"People have to back off their ideology and start engaging with the other side," he said. "Horsford was a passionate defender of what he believed in and could match the Republicans’ ‘My way or the highway’ attitude.’ "

Whether Denis can stand up to the task or both parties will accept compromise is yet to be determined, Herzik said.

Denis already is behaving like the Democrats’ leader. He is fundraising chairman for the upper house’s Democrats and is in charge of recruiting candidates for Senate seats next year.

While the next Legislature is 15 months away, Denis expects improving education, creating jobs and reforming the tax structure will remain key issues.

He isn’t saying yet whether the Democrats’ agenda will include bills to increase taxes.

DEMOCRAT ALL THE WAY

Born in New York to Cuban immigrant parents, Denis has a nationally known politician cousin, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla. Rubio, who attended elementary school in Las Vegas, is being eyed as a Republican vice presidential candidate, although he has said he won’t be a candidate.

Nonetheless, Denis won’t have any problem voting for the Democratic ticket headed by President Barack Obama.

"President Obama has been responsive," Denis said. "I have spoken with him several times, including at the White House. He chose health care as his first big issue. Politically that may not have been a smart move, but health care is a very important issue."

Denis is a staunch Democrat.

"For me, I always fight for the little guy," he said. "I am a person who is inclusive, and I think the Democratic Party is inclusive. But there are good things about both parties."

Family was the reason Denis got involved in civic life in the first place.

When his youngest daughter entered school, he joined the school PTA, which then was attracting about 10 parents to meetings. He eventually became president, changed the meeting time to the evenings and recruited more members.

"I always have been one that said I can’t complain about stuff unless I am willing to do something about it. They said parents don’t want to be involved. That wasn’t true. Some of these parents are working one or two jobs. There were cultural and language barriers. You have to go out and ask them. Sometimes that’s all it takes."

DENIS ON HISPANIC ISSUES

Proud of his heritage, Denis does not want people to support him or any politician because they are Hispanic.

"Just because you are Hispanic doesn’t mean you are going to be the best person for the job," he said.

During the 2011 session, Denis opposed moves to pass anti-immigration laws. Immigration is an issue that must be resolved at the federal level, not at the state level, he said.

He noted that Russell Pearce, the Arizona state senator who authored that state’s anti-immigration law, was recalled by voters on Tuesday.

No one complained about un­documented residents before the recession began, because they were needed to fill jobs that otherwise would have gone unfilled, Denis said.

"They contributed more to our economy than they took. They come here to make life better for their families."

He pointed out that Alabama farmers could not find enough American workers this fall willing to do jobs after the state cracked down on undocumented workers.

While there are not a lot of strictly Hispanic issues, Denis said "just having someone who understands the Hispanic community" in a leadership position is important to Hispanic people.

As the Hispanic caucus leader last spring, Denis was outspoken in his opposition to the Republican redistricting plan to create majority Hispanic districts.

He saw the GOP’s real motive as a move to dilute the voting strength of Hispanics who generally vote Democrat.

All eight Hispanic legislators are Democrats.

"The Republican Party’s record on Hispanic issues borders between ambivalent and atrocious, so their sudden interest in taking up the mantle of minority voting rights must be examined," Denis said at the time. "Quite frankly, you don’t let the fox guard the henhouse."

As the state Senate Education chairman, Denis pushed into law reforms that make it easier to fire underperforming teachers, while at the same time giving them an opportunity to improve. Improving education is a key issue for Hispanics, he said.

However, he adamantly opposed Gov. Brian Sandoval’s plan to extend vouchers to parents who want to send their children to private schools. Denis said vouchers will benefit only a minority of students and destroy public education.

FAMILY AND ROOTS

Denis and his wife are parents of five children, ages 9 to 26. Susan Denis grew up only a few blocks from his boyhood home in Las Vegas. Like him, she attended Rancho High School.

But they never met until they both took rides from a mutual friend back and forth from Las Vegas to Brigham Young University in Utah one semester.

A Mormon since elementary school, Denis was a music major at BYU and served a two-year mission in Uruguay. He has been a bishop for his local ward and now serves as the second councilor to the presidency of his stake, a group of six to 12 Mormon wards or congregations.

After the Denises married and had their first child, Mo Denis "got on with the business of life." He quit college six credits short of graduation and moved back to Las Vegas for work.

Two decades later, in 2004, after prodding from his children and taking some classes at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, Denis received his degree from BYU.

Not to be outdone, his wife went back to school when their youngest child entered kindergarten. She eventually earned a teaching degree from Nevada State College in Henderson and now teaches at the elementary school six houses from their home.

Denis is a computer network technician for the Public Utilities Commission.

He taught himself computers in the mid-1980s, largely by joining a computer club and reading every book he could find about computers. He took the PUC job in 1993.

Once the operator of a music store and a piano salesman, Denis still loves music and occasionally sings and dances in summer musical theater productions. Three of his children even joined him in a recent production of "Seussical."

Contact Capital Bureau Chief Ed Vogel at evogel@reviewjournal.com or 775-687-3901.

ad-high_impact_4
News
NSPCA Gets Kittens From LA
Man killed during road-rage incident
Las Vegas police are looking for two men involved in the shooting death of a man outside a 7-Eleven story at Bonanza Road and Maryland Parkway on Nov. 12, 2018. (Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department)
VA Southern Nevada Healthcare System hosts Veterans Day Car Show and BBQ
The 4th Annual Veterans Day Car Show and BBQ is held in celebration of Veterans Day at the VA Southern Nevada Healthcare System Medical Center in North Las Vegas, Saturday, Nov. 10, 2018. (Caroline Brehman/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Wildfires in Southern California
Wildfires hit Ventura County, Calif., on Nov. 9, 2018. (Richard Brian/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Dedication of Nevada's Battle Born memorial
The state of Nevada on Friday dedicated its Battle Born memorial honoring 895 state residents who have died in America’s wars.
Las Vegas police and Sunrise Children's Hospital hope to prevent infant deaths
The Metropolitan Police Department and Sunrise Children's Hospital held a press conference to get the message out on preventable infant deaths attributed to "co-sleeping" and other unsafe sleeping habits. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
No serious injuries after car hits tree in south Las Vegas
One person reported minor injuries but wasn’t hospitalized after a Wednesday morning crash in the south valley.
Nellis Air Force Base keeps airmen fed
Nellis Air Force Bass airmen have delicious and healthy food items, and a variety of dining facilities to choose from. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Suspicious package found at central Las Vegas post office
Las Vegas police determined that a suspicious package found Monday morning at a central valley post office was not a threat.
Suspicious package found at central Las Vegas post office
Police evacuated the area around the Garside Station post office early Monday morning near Oakey and Decatur boulevards.
With husband's passing, family in limbo for workers' comp claim
Meredith Tracy's husand, Russell Tracy, died more than a year ago on his first day working for a new company when he fell 22 feet into a manhole that was not properly safeguarded. His employer was fined $82,000 in penalties for unsafe practices, but the company has denied her workers' compensation claim, leaving her with no compensation since the death. Rachel Aston Las Vegas Review-Journal @rookie__rae
With husband's passing, family in limbo for workers' comp claim
Meredith Tracy's husand, Russell Tracy, died more than a year ago on his first day working for a new company when he fell 22 feet into a manhole that was not properly safeguarded. His employer was fined $82,000 in penalties for unsafe practices, but the company has denied her workers' compensation claim, leaving her with no compensation since the death. Rachel Aston Las Vegas Review-Journal @rookie__rae
Las Vegas family shares flu warning
Carlo and Brenda Occhipinti lost their son, Carlo Jr., or “Junior,” to the flu last year.
Author Randall Cannon shares an anecdote about Stadust Raceway
Author Randall Cannon shares an anecdote about Dan Blocker, who played Hoss Cartwright on the TV show "Bonanza," and the actor's passion for auto racing at Stardust International Raceway in Las Vegas during the 1960s. (Ron Kantowski/Las Vegas Review-Journal.)
Project Neon 85 percent complete
On Wednesday morning Oct. 31, Interstate 15 northbound lane restrictions were removed opening up Exit 41 to Charleston Blvd. On Thursday Nov. 1, Interstate 15 southbound lane restrictions were removed. The new southbound off-ramp to Sahara Ave. and Highland Dr. also opened Thursday, November 1. With Project Neon 85% finished the flow of traffic on Interstate 15 has substantially diminished. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Girl killed after jumping from bridge onto 215 Beltway in Henderson
Eastbound lanes of the 215 Beltway are shut down by the Nevada Highway Patrol after a female juvenile jumped from the 215 overpass at Stephanie and was struck by a FedEx tractor trailer. Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal @Vegas88s
Kristallnacht story
An interview with 94-year-old Holocaust survivor Alexander Kuechel who survived seven concentration camps and didn’t leave Germany until after World War II was over. (Mia Sims/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
1 dead in central Las Vegas crash
An early Wednesday morning crash left at least one person dead and another injured. The crash was reported just around 3 a.m. at the intersection of Flamingo Road and Swenson Street. At least two vehicles were involved in the crash, one of which caught fire. Debris was scattered across the intersection as police combed the area as they investigated the scene. Flamingo is blocked in both directions between Swenson and Cambridge Street. Northbound Swenson is blocked at the intersection.
Richard Knoeppel named the 2018 Nevada Teacher of the Year
Richard Knoeppel, an architecture design instructor at the Advanced technologies Academy, named the 2018 Nevada Teacher of the Year on Monday, Oct. 29, 2018. (Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @bizutesfaye
Mojave Poppy Bees
(Zach Portman/University of Minnesota Department of Entomology) Male Mojave poppy bees exhibit territorial fighting behavior. The Center for Biological Diversity wants the bee, found only in Clark County, to be added to the endangered species list.
Clark County Schools announce random searches
Clark County School District middle and high school students will be subject to random searches for weapons under a new initiative to combat the wave of guns found on campus. (Amelia Pak-Harvey/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Ron Jeremy and Heidi Fleiss React to Dennis Hof's Death
Ron Jeremy and Heidi Fleiss speak about their friend and prominent brothel owner Dennis Hof's death at Dennis Hof's Love Ranch. (Benjamin Hager/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Nevada brothel owner Dennis Hof has died
Nevada brothel owner and Republican candidate for Nevada State Assembly District 36, Dennis Hof has died. He was 72. Nye County Sherriff's office confirmed. Hof owned Love Ranch brothel, located in Crystal, Nevada.
Las Vegas police investigate suspicious package at shopping center
Las Vegas police evacuated a southeast valley shopping center at Flamingo and Sandhill roads early Tuesday morning while they investigated reports of a suspicious package. (Max Michor/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
The Las Vegas Metro hosts the K-9 Trials
The Las Vegas Metro K-9 Trials returns to the Orleans Arena to benefit the Friends For Las Vegas Police K-9 group.
Kingman residents love their little town
Residents of Kingman, Ariz. talk about how they ended up living in the Route 66 town, and what they love about their quiet community. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Service at Southern Nevada Veterans Memorial Cemetery
Twelve unclaimed veterans are honored at Southern Nevada Veterans Memorial Cemetery in Boulder City in Oct. 9, 2018. (Briana Erickson/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Las Vegas house prices reach highest level in 11 years
Las Vegas house prices are rising But so is the amount of available homes on the market Still, properties priced below $300,000 are selling fast And September was the first time since June 2007 that the median house price reached the $300,000 mark Las Vegas home prices have been rising at one of the fastest rates in the country over the past year Recent data show the market is now less affordable than the national average
National Night Out
About 100 Summerlin residents gathered at Park Centre Dr. in Summerlin on Tuesday for National Night Out. Lt. Joshua Bitsko with Las Vegas Metro, played with 3-year-old David who was dressed as a police officer. Face painting, fire truck tours and more kept kids busy as parents roamed behind them. (Mia Sims/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Rural homeless issue comes to a head in Pahrump
On Sept. 12, Pahrump sheriff deputies told residents of a homeless encampment on private property that they had 15 minutes to vacate and grab their belongings. That decision might face some legal consequences. (Rachel Aston/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Politics
Nevada Politics Today: Robert Fellner
Nevada’s Supreme Court has ruled that public employee retiree payouts are public records and we’re talking someone from the winning side.
Rosen discusses plans and goals as U.S. Senator
U.S. Senator-elect Jacky Rosen meets with Las Vegas reporters to discuss her win and priorities as Nevada’s next senator.
The Right Take: Republicans Need To Advantage Of Third Party Candidates
Nevada had a blue wave on Tuesday, but some of Nevada’s most conservative voters amplified its reach.
Amy Tarkanian gives passionate speech after husband's election loss
Amy Tarkanian speaks to a small crowd after her husband, Danny Tarkanian, concedes the race for the 3rd Congressional District.
U.S. Senator-Elect Jacky Rosen gives her victory speech
After defeating Dean Heller for the Nevada Senate seat, Jacky Rosen gives her victory speech at Cesars Palace in Las Vegas.
Senator Dean Heller concedes in 2018 election
Senator Dean Heller concedes in 2018 election.
Nevada Election 2018 | Election Update
Nevada 2018 Election Update. Live from Las Vegas Review-Journal Studio with the latest results from election night.
Susie Lee defeats Danny Tarkanian in Nevada's 3rd Congressional District
Susie Lee delivers her acceptance speech after defeating Danny Tarkanian for Nevada's 3rd Congressional District. (Rachel Aston/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @rookie__rae
Nevada Election 2018 | Election Update
Nevada Election 2018: A late night for those wanting election results.
Nevada Election 2018 | Election Update
Nevada Election 2018: A late night for those wanting election results. The latest from the Las Vegas Review Journal. Studio anchor Aaron Drawhorn joined by columnist Victor Joecks discussing voter turnout and impact.
Scenes from the Nevada GOP Election Party
Crowds gather at Nevada's GOP Election Party at South Point in Clark County. Michael Quine/ Las Vegas Review-Journal
Long lines in 2018 Nevada election in Las Vegas
Polling places in Clark County, Nev., saw long lines during the 2018 election.
Dennis Hof Wins, What Now?
Although Nevada Republicans have seen stronger elections, brothel owner Dennis Hof, who passed away unexpectedly October 16, managed to win his race for Assembly District 36 despite being dead. Hof ran as a Republican, calling himself the “Trump of Pahrump.” Although the colorful candidate and showman easily defeated his Democratic opponent from the grave, county commissioners from the three counties comprising District 36 must now meet to name Hof’s replacement.
Henderson voters talk about their voting experience
Henderson voters talk about their voting experience. Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal @bizutesfaye
Voters hit the polls at Downtown Summerlin in Las Vegas
Voters, including first time voters, were lined up before the doors opened at the voting center in a tent in the parking lot behind Dillard’s at Downtown Summerlin. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Election Day time off
Nevada companies are required to give employees one to three hours of paid time off on Election Day, depending on the distance between the place of work and a polling location. (Bailey Schulz/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
U.S. Senator Kamala Harris Speaks at UNLV Rally
U.S. Senator Kamala Harris speaks at a UNLV rally hosted by the Nevada State Democratic Party.
Early voting ends Friday in Clark County
The final day of early voting is Friday, Nov. 2. Election Day is Tuesday, Nov. 6. Voting locations will stay open past their scheduled closing time so long as people are waiting in line to cast ballots. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
President’s son visits Las Vegas in support of Republican candidates
Eric and Lara Trump show their support for U.S. Representative Cresent Hardy and other Republican candidates during a rally at the Nevada Republican Party’s Summerlin office.
Barack Obama Encourages Las Vegas To Vote Early
Former President Barack Obama visits Las Vegas to encourage people to vote early for the midterm elections.
Former Vice President Joe Biden Speaks Along With Democrat Candidates Speak At #Risenvote Rally
Former Vice President Joe Biden Speaks at the #RiseNVote rally to get voters to vote early.
Heller, Rosen participate in debate
The senatorial debate between Dean Heller and Jacky Rosen highlighted differences between the candidates, who spent much of Friday night exchanging barbs on health care, immigration and gun control. (Courtesy KLAS-TV, Las Vegas)
Ron Jeremy and Heidi Fleiss React to Dennis Hof's Death
Ron Jeremy and Heidi Fleiss speak about their friend and prominent brothel owner Dennis Hof's death at Dennis Hof's Love Ranch. (Benjamin Hager/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Nevada brothel owner Dennis Hof has died
Nevada brothel owner and Republican candidate for Nevada State Assembly District 36, Dennis Hof has died. He was 72. Nye County Sherriff's office confirmed. Hof owned Love Ranch brothel, located in Crystal, Nevada.
Duncan details his Safer Nevada plan, responds to campaign commercials
Nevada needs to increase the number of psychiatric ERs and the penalty for some serious crimes, according to Republican attorney general candidate Wes. He also contends that voters should consider Democrat candidate Aaron Ford’s multiple arrests and past tax liens.
The Right Take: Kavanaugh Testifies
Ford has accused Kavanaugh of sexually assaulting her around 1982 when both were high school students. Her testimony didn’t provide any new information to corroborate her claims, but her emotion was visible for all to see. She projected a genuine belief that Kavanaugh assaulted her.
Nevada Politics Today: Jon Wellinghoff
Nevada Politics Today host Victor Joecks interviews Jon Wellinghoff, CEO of Grid Policy.
The Right Take: Brett Kavanaugh
Two women have recently accused Brett Kavanaugh of sexually assaulting them over three decades ago. Their allegations aren’t just unverified. Numerous supposed eyewitnesses have directly contradicted them.
Nevada Politics Today: Brett Kavanaugh And Trump
Nevada Politics Today host Victor Joecks and Review-Journal columnist Debra J Saunders talk about Brett Kavanaugh and Trumps visit to Nevada.
Nevada Politics Today: Brett Kavanaugh And Trump
Nevada Politics Today host Victor Joecks and Review-Journal columnist Debra J Saunders talk about Brett Kavanaugh and Trumps visit to Nevada.
Michael Ramirez Joins The Review-Journal Team
Pulitzer prize winning political cartoonist Michael Ramirez talks about joining the Review-Journal and how he started his career.
Nevada Politics Today: Danny Tarkanian
The federal government should create a high-risk pool for individuals with pre-existing conditions. Susie Lee, the Democrat running for Congressional District 3 is against ICE. She’s also ducking debates, despite once challenging her opponent to debate her. That’s according to Danny Tarkanian, the Republican nominee for CD3.
Nevada Politics Today: Danny Tarkanian
The federal government should create a high-risk pool for individuals with pre-existing conditions. Susie Lee, the Democrat running for Congressional District 3 is against ICE. She’s also ducking debates, despite once challenging her opponent to debate her. That’s according to Danny Tarkanian, the Republican nominee for CD3.
Vice President Mike Pence visits Nellis Air Force Base
During his second visit to Nevada, Vice President Mike Pence spoke to airmen inside a Nellis Air Force Base hangar and spent the afternoon campaigning for GOP Sen. Dean Heller and gubernatorial nominee Adam Laxalt.
Nevada Politics Today: Karen Wayland
Nevada Politics Today: Asm. Jim Marchant
Asm. Marchant talks about education, voter integrity and running for leadership Nevada should increase funding for Career and Technical Education, but shouldn’t automatically register voters at the DMV. Assembly Republicans will also oppose tax increases next legislative session. That’s according to Assemblyman Jim Marchant.
TOP NEWS
News Headlines
Add Event
Home Front Page Footer Listing
Circular
You May Like

You May Like