America Could Use More Candidates like Adam Laxalt

by Kathryn Jean Lopez

Author’s Note: Please read to the end for added material since posting.

There was an odd piece in Politico earlier this week about a candidate for office in Nevada. I should correct myself — it wasn’t about the candidate. There was precious little about the candidate. It was almost entirely about the circumstances of his birth and about his family.

And about his family: Let me start with his mother. A young woman spent the night with a powerful man. It’s been known to happen. She finds herself pregnant. What does she do? She lets the father of her child — a senator, he with his own family — live in peace and raises her son on her own.

Her son is the aforementioned candidate, Adam Laxalt, and he is running for state attorney general. Which Jon Ralston describes in his Politico piece as a “joke.”

At a time when cynicism about politics and despair about the future is fairly high, perhaps we should err on the side of not making light of upstanding citizens’ political participation?

Back to his family, you probably recognize the name. His grandfather is Ronald Reagan’s good friend and confidant (and a former senator himself) Paul Laxalt. Adam’s youth and pedigree leads Nevada’s most respected political reporter to declare the candidate a “cipher until recently.”

Kudos to the Daily Mail. When they piggybacked on the piece — once you get past the headline — they at least highlighted the fact that Laxalt, although running for office for the first time, is an Iraq vet and a family man. Yes, he has public service in his blood — it’s also clearly a call for him.

I asked Laxalt what he thought of the piece and he, in gratitude to his family and heritage, said:

One day many decades ago a 30 something son of an immigrant Basque sheepherder had a call to serve his state and his country. He embodied the American dream and gave a voice to all the hard working westerners that survived out here with true rugged individualism. He did this because he felt it was his duty to give back and to lead. 

Laxalt lamented the “missed opportunity to discuss the substance of the campaign and the importance of the job” in the piece. He continued:

It is sad to see the pervasive cynicism in a piece like this that fails to see that someone like me may have the same motivations and just want to serve my state and make it a better place to live in the coming decades. If my name was Adam Smith I would still be running for Attorney General of Nevada because I know I can make a difference and because I value this office tremendously. This is however a counter factual because my name is Adam Laxalt and I come from a family that has lived and served in this state in every capacity imaginable since the mid-1800’s. We have walked all walks in life including mining, ranching, teaching, faith leadership, writing, waitressing, hospitality, lawyering, engineering, accounting, and we even had a man, my great grandfather John Ross, who came to Nevada with nothing and eventually became a Federal Judge. Leadership is a calling. I believe today especially it is a duty. We need it now or our country is in serious trouble. 

On the campaign trail he’s grateful for the love people have for his grandfather:  

I hear all over the state about people who absolutely loved my grandfather. Many say he was the person that brought them into politics and that he was the first they worked and volunteered for. I usually try to ask what they loved about him and the overwhelming response is that he stood firm for things. He had principles that he was willing to fight for no matter the consequences. They really feel like he actually served the people. 

In the what-have-you-done-for-me-lately age of society, this truly inspires me. You can make a difference and people will remember. Be a good man, stand for things, and tell it how it is. Nevadans want this very badly. 

When I asked him what he thinks the actual news of his campaign is, he replied:

In just 12 short weeks, I was able to raise $543,000 which was more than twice as much money than my anointed opponent.  In fact, I outraised every statewide candidate for office, challenger and incumbent, Republican and Democrat.  I did this from scratch with incredibly hard work – call by call, meeting by meeting.  My opponent, his supporters and many political pundits predicted that I would fail at raising money in Nevada. This was preposterous on its face and arrogant and our $300,000 raised over 300 unique donors quickly exposes this for what it is. In many cases I convinced major business leaders in one-hour sittings that I am the person who will be best for Nevada’s future. This is the story. When they say I am not raising money in Nevada, what they mean is I am not raising from lobbyists and the small hand full of people who believe they control the entire state. 

I found the Politico piece so odd because both the salaciousness and news seemed dated — Washington Post Style section had covered the circumstance of Adam’s birth when it broke — and Laxalt actually is an interesting story on his own, a candidate with experience and positions and all. Laxalt says:

I have much more faith and respect in Nevada’s voters than many political pundits.  People I meet on the campaign trail in Nevada are never interested in the gossip. Voters are issue-focused.  They always want to know what I am going to do to fix our state and our country. Our rugged, independent voters here want to know how I am going to protect their families, their individual freedoms and get back some of their liberty. They are very concerned for our future. 

It’s good news that good men and women want to show up for the fight for the future — how can we better help families and respect law again, rather than abuse it as a proxy for democratic debate?

And it’s always good news that a mom had courage, embraced life, and showed her son just what that looks like.

If you’re interested in learning more about Laxalt, I Q&Aed (I’ve done it enough that I can make it a verb, right?) him here a few months ago. When I gave him the floor, by the way, to introduce himself, the first thing he had to say was about his mother:

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.

Gratitude. For life. For liberty. They’re no jokes. 

UPDATE: The author of the Politico piece is not pleased with my post:

You can read Ralston’s piece and his response. I read his piece and thought the candidate seemed much more interesting than the piece captured. I also linked to it for your reading pleasure, and I shared the candidate’s response when I contacted him. I’m not an expert in Nevada politics but I am encouraged when I see people who love their families and their country and feel called to service in politics. That’s all. And I pray the humanity in politics never gets lost in the rough and tumble. 

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