Selected writing from 2020-2022 published in the Las Vegas Review-Journal, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, The Daily Orange and 91.7 WVXU.
Trump seeks to boost police at rally with Lombardo, Laxalt
July 8, 2022 for the Las Vegas Review-Journal
Former President Donald Trump visited the Strip on Friday evening to stump for statewide candidates Adam Laxalt and Joe Lombardo.
Trump’s speech and the preceding panel focused on law enforcement policy and criticized Democratic leadership in Washington, D.C.
“We are a nation in decline,” Trump said. “We are a failing nation … All the while the streets are filled with the blood of innocent crime victims … If we are going to make America great again, our first task is to make America safe again.”
Friday’s event was hosted at Treasure Island, which is owned by Trump ally Phil Ruffin, who also co-owns the Trump International hotel with the Trump Organization.
The evening was a who’s who of Nevada Republicans, with appearances from state party chair Michael McDonald, congressional candidate Sam Peters, secretary of state candidate Jim Marchant, treasurer candidate Michele Fiore, lieutenant governor candidate Stavros Anthony and attorney general candidate Sigal Chattah.
Trump praised China and Singapore for executing drug dealers, drawing cheers from some in the audience. He said those who kill police officers should also face the death penalty, to massive cheers.
“We have to give police back their authority, their power and their prestige,” Trump said. “If we don’t get that it will only get worse, and it will get worse rapidly.”
He criticized “Democrat-led cities” for the rise in crime nationally. That includes Las Vegas, despite the fact that Lombardo sat on the stage feet away from him.
“As you know, Nevada is a cesspool of crime,” he said.
Las Vegas religious leaders react to Supreme Court ruling
June 24, 2022 for the Las Vegas Review-Journal
Local religious leaders shared mixed opinions on the Supreme Court’s ruling to overturn the landmark Roe v. Wade decision that had enshrined abortion as a constitutional right for nearly a half-century.
The court’s ruling, released Friday morning, gives states the ability to legislate abortion rights, and many states have already severely limited or outlawed it.
Bishop George Leo Thomas of the Diocese of Las Vegas released a statement in support of the court’s decision.
“The (Catholic) Church believes in the sacredness of human life, beginning at conception until natural death. Every child born and unborn has the right to life,” the statement reads.
Shortly after the decision was released, protesters gathered in front of the Supreme Court in Washington, D.C. An abortion-rights protest in downtown Las Vegas also took place Friday night.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints reaffirmed its stance against abortion with an updated website Friday.
“The church’s position on this matter remains unchanged,” the site says. “As states work to enact laws related to abortion, church members may appropriately choose to participate in efforts to protect life and to preserve religious liberty.”
Other religious leaders derided the court’s decision.
According to Rabbi Sanford Akselrad of Congregation Ner Tamid in Henderson, in Judaism, a fetus is viewed as part of the woman, not a separate person, and life is believed to begin at birth.
“This ruling removes a religious choice for Jews,” he said. “Potential life is still holy and sacred, but abortion is a decision that should be made by a woman, her physician and her rabbi and religious council.”
Conservatives win big in Nevada statewide contests
June 15, 2022 for the Las Vegas Review-Journal
Right-wing Republican candidates won a majority of statewide races in the Nevada primary Tuesday, many of whom have embraced election conspiracies. But that doesn’t mean that a red wave is coming in November, some experts say.
Election night was a win for the right and for Donald Trump — all Trump-endorsed candidates won — but results could say more about what the loudest Republicans believe than about what all Nevadans want in their political future.
“This is not the first time right wing candidates have done well in Republican primaries in Nevada,” said Ken Miller, an assistant professor of political science at UNLV.
Adam Laxalt, who has pushed election fraud conspiracies, won his primary for U.S. Senate and will face Democratic Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto. Jim Marchant, the most extreme candidate in a crowded secretary of state field, won his primary, even shedding doubt on the veracity of his own election. Sigal Chattah defeated a moderate opponent in the attorney general race. Michele Fiore, the firebrand who left the governor’s race to instead run for treasurer, won her primary as well.
Miller chalks up those right wing victories more to how primaries work than to a new movement in the conservative wing of state Republicans.
“Primaries can be turbulent,” Miller said. “There’s low turnout, and especially for down-ballot races there’s less campaigning, fewer ads and the voters have less information. The most activated voters show up in higher numbers.”
Running for office a family affair for Larsens
July 29, 2022 for the Las Vegas Review-Journal
Flemming Larsen always dreamed about running for office, but the restaurateur quickly changed his mind when a Republican state senator asked his wife, April, to run instead.
The plan was, Flemming would become April’s campaign manager and her chief of staff in Carson City, negotiating bills with senators and using their combined business acumen to best represent her Henderson and East Las Vegas constituents.
But that plan didn’t last.
After some encouragement, Flemming decided to follow his dream and run for office himself.
So now, both April, 47, and Flemming, 53, are running together, side-by-side for the overlapping state Senate District 21 and state Assembly District 12. They want to join state Sen. Ira and Assemblywoman Alexis Hansen, both R-Sparks, as the second legislative power couple in Carson City.
The Larsen platform is simple: improve public safety by supporting police, better education with school choice and combating the ongoing water crisis. After both won their Republican primaries last month — April running unopposed for the Senate nomination and Flemming coming out on top in a five-candidate field for Assembly — each is now making their pitch to their potential future constituents.
“I (look up) to Ronald Reagan. He was able to work with Democrats and negotiate,” Flemming said. “He didn’t always get what he wanted, but he was able to cross the party lines and go play golf afterward. Being in business, you have to walk to the line. Can’t be too tough, can’t be too lenient. The big inspiration behind it all is trying to achieve that common goal of working together.”
Butcher shop beginnings
Despite their political aspirations, neither of the Larsens ever wanted to be career politicians. They run a chain of restaurants and steakhouses in Las Vegas and Southern California — appropriately named Larsen’s Restaurant Group — with Flemming as the day-to-day lead and April running the numbers as CFO. They met nearly 30 years ago at one of Flemming’s California restaurants.
The food service industry chose Flemming at a young age. He started working in his Danish immigrant family’s butcher shop at 15 but couldn’t stand it by the time he turned 21.
“It was cold, I worked at five o’clock in the morning. Zero social life. I worked six days a week,” he said. “So I decided to open a restaurant.”
Using a Sears credit card and business acumen from managing a grocery store and the butcher shop, Flemming’s first restaurant was born.
Seven years later, that restaurant grew into a chain which he sold and re-invested into his first steakhouse, the same one where he and his future wife eventually met in 1999. At the time she was a single mother of two boys, struggling to pay bills as she went to night school to become a dental hygenist.
“Her attitude was was so positive all the time. You would never know that she was a struggling mother and couldn’t make ends meet. Her kids were her world, and it was really inspiring to meet somebody like that,” Flemming said.
But now, 22 years together and one more son later, that difficult background is helping April connect with her potential constituents, and she hopes it will let her better represent them in Carson City.
“Sometimes I look back and think, ‘Wow, I made it through that,’” April said. “It didn’t come from just sitting around. It wasn’t handed to me. It’s hard work and perseverance. That’s really all I can do is encourage people. I’ve lived it. I understand. We’re gonna get through it.”
J. Scott Applewhite, Adam Beam / AP
A Confederate battle flag can be seen in the bottom left of this picture of the home of Thomas Massie while it was under construction in August 2006. The flag could first be seen in a post on July 25, 2006, and is last seen in a post on August 13, 2006.
Todd McMurtry Clings To Trump In Primary Challenge Of NKY Rep. Thomas Massie
June 8, 2020 for WVXU 91.7
Todd McMurtry, the Northern Kentucky lawyer famous for being part of the legal team representing a Covington Catholic High School student in suits against CNN and The Washington Post, hopes to unseat Rep. Thomas Massie in the state's June 23 Republican primary. McMurtry has attacked Massie over his apparent lack of loyalty to the president and the Republican Party.
This comes after President Trump publicly attacked Massie on Twitter, saying "...WIN BACK HOUSE, but throw Massie out of Republican Party!"
Massie voted to force a recorded vote on the CARES Act, the federal stimulus bill which was passed in reaction to the COVID-19 pandemic. Massie's vote would have made Congress return to Washington D.C. amidst the pandemic to vote in-person, but his motion failed.
WVXU reached out to Massie multiple times via phone and email for comment for this story but did not receive a response. Massie will, however, appear on Tuesday's Cincinnati Edition in a pre-recorded conversation with host Michael Monks.
McMurtry has focused on Massie's record of voting against key bills that would repeal the Affordable Care Act, defund Planned Parenthood, provide funding for a border wall, and to support U.S. interests in Israel.
"There's a lot of support in the district for foreign policy interests in Israel and Congressman Massie is the most anti-Israel Republican in Washington. He is right up there with Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and 'The Squad,' " McMurtry said, referring to the nickname of a group of four Democratic women of color elected to the House in 2018.
Outside of his support for the president, McMurtry's policy focus is on infrastructure and transportation in Northern Kentucky. Massie currently serves on the House Committee on Transportation & Infrastructure.
"When (Massie) ran he said, 'You need to put an engineer in Congress to get the Brent Spence Bridge done.' He's on the infrastructure committee but he has never gotten a piece of legislation passed; he's never even gotten a piece of legislation out of the committee. He has proven to be completely ineffective on transportation and infrastructure issues," McMurtry said.