Adam Paul Laxalt wants to be the next attorney general of Nevada. Of course he’s running for office, you might say, sneaking a peek at his biography — his grandfather the former senator and governor of Nevada and close friend to Ronald Reagan; his mother, Michelle, a Washington mainstay; among other political genes. But upon meeting him, hearing the joy with which he speaks of his family, you wonder why the Iraq vet, a lawyer and former federal prosecutor, and young father of a one-year-old, would bother getting himself into the mix and mess of campaign politics. I ask him about his campaign and his drive for public service and what he sees for the future of Nevada and this country we share stewardship of in an interview for National Review Online.
KATHRYN JEAN LOPEZ: What’s so important about the office of attorney general in Nevada? What makes you the right fit?
ADAM PAUL LAXALT: The attorney general’s office is the only elected office where a single person can fight for the Constitution, the rule of law, and limits on a runaway executive branch. I will fight for Nevada to protect us from the regulation and federal overreach that kills jobs and endangers our liberties every day.
LOPEZ: Is this just a stepping-stone to something bigger and more powerful?
LAXALT: I am not a career politician, and this office is emphatically not a self-aggrandizing position. If I am honored by the people of Nevada to be elected as our next attorney general, I will be focusing fully on the job at hand: defending Nevada from federal overreach and working with law enforcement around the state to make sure we are as safe as we possibly can be. I think that’s a big enough challenge for now. My wife and I spent a lot of time discerning if the decision to run for this office was the right one for our family, and any family faced with a big opportunity — no matter what it is — can relate. We couldn’t think much further down the road. I have a large challenge in front of me as a first-time political candidate.
LOPEZ: Is it worth the effort? Ross Miller, the current secretary of state, whom you will be running against if you are the Republican nominee, is well-known and supported by members of your party — and family!
LAXALT: The decision to run for office is a major effort. Even so, I completely believe that the future of our state — and the nation — is worth it. The response from Nevadans has been so overwhelming and encouraging that I am ready for the challenge.
I have never run from any major undertaking. I learned how deep I can reach in my time in the U.S. Navy and in Iraq. I wanted to be a part of making Nevada and our country a safer place. My goal now is the same — to make Nevada a safer and freer place to raise my children. I am a fourth-generation Nevadan, and my family has long roots in this state.
Their political views run the gamut, just like any extended family. What motivates me, though, is the astounding support I have received from ordinary Nevadans. These citizens expect something different from their elected officials: integrity, leadership, and courage. They see these qualities in me, and I will try hard to live up to their expectations.
LOPEZ: What’s the difference between you and Miller that you’d like people to come to see?
LAXALT: I’d like people to know three things about me: First, I was raised by a single working mom who gave every ounce of her energy to make sure she provided for me. My mother had me in a time when women were not encouraged to raise a child out of wedlock. Single-mom-hood was no easy thing in the 1980s, but we tackled the world on our own for most of my childhood, and I never felt left out without a dad. She was truly heroic and will always be the most amazing person I have ever known.
Second, I am a leader. Becoming a naval officer most certainly changed my life. I learned so many things about how to treat people, how to respect your oath and uniform, how to lead by example and by word. I learned that there is no separation from the man you are at work and the man you are the rest of the time. In the military you are always on duty and always accountable for your actions and your character. I am grateful for having learned such an immensely valuable and important lesson so early in my life. It provided me with multiple opportunities over several years to develop myself not only professionally as a lawyer, but how to think critically and strategically.
Third, I have the professional experience necessary to lead the attorney general’s office. In the detainee world, we helped with the capture and prosecution of some of the world’s most dangerous terrorists in Iraq. After my combat tour, I served as both a Navy prosecutor and as a federal prosecutor. I have also served as an assistant professor of law, leadership, and ethics at the U.S. Naval Academy. In my nine years as an attorney, I have advised commanding officers and major companies, so I am well-qualified to be Nevada’s top attorney.
LOPEZ: There has been some coverage of the fact that you say “marriage is between a man and a woman.” Isn’t that a lost cause at this point in history? And what do you say to people who believe your position to be a bigoted one?
LAXALT: The job of the attorney general is to defend the law. As the law stands today, Article I, Section 21 of the Nevada constitution only recognizes marriage between “a male and a female person.” As legal counsel for my state, I am compelled to defend our constitution — regardless of whether I personally agree with the politics of the position, just like I did when I served in the U.S. military. The attorney general’s office, in particular, needs to return to a respect for the rule of law and for our constitutional system, or we will fail to remain the strongest nation this earth has ever known. I run to uphold respect for the rule of law — not to weigh in on any one particular policy debate.
LOPEZ: What would be your agenda and priorities as AG?
LAXALT: I will join the growing list of attorneys general who actively resist the federal government’s overreach. I would place a much more significant effort and resources in challenging the federal government on the laws and regulations they force on our citizens and our economy. Whether Washington is trying to dictate what kind of health-care coverage we have to purchase, the kind of gun laws we should have, the listing of various species under the Endangered Species Act, or damaging EPA regulations on our leading economic industries, I will be an attorney general who protects Nevadans and our interests. I’ve always believed that Nevadans are much better stewards of our lives and the overall protection of our lands and habitat than some bureaucrat in a cubicle in Washington.