When accountant Nathan D. Larson was talking to voters and collecting signatures to qualify as a candidate for Virginia’s House of Delegates, he left out some unusual details from his résumé:
In 2009, he pleaded guilty to threatening to kill the U.S. president, an admission that led to 16 months in federal prison and three years of supervised release. Since then, among other things, he has advocated for legalizing incestuous marriage and making it harder to win a court restraining order against an allegedly abusive spouse.
“If [voters] had asked about it, I would have told them,” said Larson, who describes himself as a libertarian, although party leaders say they have disavowed him. He hopes to run as an independent to replace Republican L. Scott Lingamfelter (R-Prince William) in Virginia’s 31st District, which includes portions of Fauquier and Prince William counties. He has submitted more than the required 125 signatures and has until June 3, the day of the primaries, to file candidacy papers.
Larson’s criminal record precluded him from running for office until last year, when Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) restored voting and other civil rights to thousands of convicted felons across the state.
The executive action drew outrage and a successful court challenge from Republicans, but McAuliffe found a way to proceed with rights restoration on a more limited basis.
Now, it is propelling Larson’s otherwise quixotic bid for public office into Virginia’s heated governor’s race.
“This is the problem when you have a blanket restoration of rights like this,” Ed Gillespie, the leading Republican gubernatorial contender, says in a video posted to his Facebook page in which he criticizes his Democratic opponents for their support of McAuliffe’s order.
“I would like to know why Congressman Tom Perriello and Lieutenant Governor Ralph Northam think it’s a good idea for people like Nathan Larson and for those who are the most violent felons in the commonwealth should not only have their rights restored and be able to vote but also to be able to run for office and put them on a path to be able to obtain a weapon,” Gillespie says.
Northam spokesman David Turner said in a statement that the Democrat “finds Nathan Larson’s threats, beliefs and behavior abhorrent” and considers him unfit for public office.
“However, Ed Gillespie’s attempts to attack important steps forward in criminal justice reform to score political points underscores how he is stuck in the D.C. swamp,” Turner said. “He is against providing those who served their sentence and are law-abiding with their right to vote.”
Larson, 36, says his candidacy is rooted in a genuine desire to bring positive changes to Virginia. He called a letter he sent to the Secret Service in 2008 that warned of his imminent plans to assassinate either President George W. Bush or President Barack Obama an act of civil disobedience meant to call attention to what he believes is the tyranny of the U.S. government.
“It doesn’t allow people to secede or do anything like that,” Larson said. “If people want to break away from the majority, they’re not allowed to do that.”
His platform includes legalizing child pornography as well as incestuous marriage; allowing men to have multiple wives and physically discipline them; repealing the 19th Amendment; and abolishing state funding for girls and women to attend high school and college.
Larson also wants to strengthen fathers’ rights in child-custody cases and make it tougher to win a court restraining order against a spouse — positions that he said are inspired by personal experience.
In 2015, after he returned to Virginia from Colorado, his then-wife was granted a court restraining order against him shortly after they were officially divorced. He later learned she was pregnant with their daughter. The daughter’s mother committed suicide after the baby was born, Larson said, and the girl is being raised by relatives in Colorado. He has met the child only once and has since remarried, he said.
Larson has been convicted of several misdemeanors, including a 2003 charge in Fairfax County for “use of computer for harassment” and two earlier convictions for marijuana possession, court records show. And he argues that his experience with police and courts gives him a leg up on Lingamfelter and the two Democratic candidates for the delegate’s seat, Sara Townsend and Elizabeth Guzman.
“If you’ve been through the system, you’ve seen it from that perspective, and you know more about how the justice system works,” he said.
Manassas resident Jane Lakeman, the first voter to sign Larson’s petition for candidacy, was taken aback when she learned Wednesday that she had supported the political ambitions of someone who had threatened to kill a U.S. president.
“I’m a little bit uncomfortable that he was at my door,” Lakeman said. “I didn’t even know you could run for office if you were convicted of a felony.”
Lakeman, a Democrat, said Larson described himself as a Libertarian who wanted to present voters in Virginia with more options, an idea she supported. “It was a very short conversation,” she said. “He seemed okay. Not well-dressed, but clean-cut.”