Sen. Tyson Larson: Being youngest state senator has its challenges

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Sen. Tyson Larson working at his desk in office at the Nebraska Capitol. At 25, he is the Legislature’s youngest member.

Story and photos by Rosemary Vestal, NewsNetNebraska

The night Barack Obama was elected president of the United States, Tyson Larson decided to run for the Nebraska Legislature, even though he was only 23.

The self-professed conservative said he was motivated to run by his belief that decisions being made by the government will critically affect many generations to come.

“I knew my generation had to be civically involved,” Larson said. “We will be saddled with the debt. Knowing that, we should have a say in what happens.”

Larson won election in 2010 from the 40th district and became the Legislature’s youngest member.

“Being the youngest has its challenges,” said Larson of O’Neill. “You work a little harder inside and out to show people you know the issues.”

But the 25-year-old legislator may be seeing a familiar face in the Legislature after the November elections. His mother, Robyn Larson, is a candidate for the second legislative district, which is south of Omaha.

“In my opinion, she is the best candidate. She’s sharp,” Larson said. “We won’t agree on all issues, but on a lot.”

Robyn Larson said her son is a remarkable, interesting and eloquent debater.

“He can be more extreme in the conservative ideology than I,” she admitted. “But I think that’s good.”

And she said she wasn’t surprised that he went into politics.

“It was easy to see his interest,” she said. “It wouldn’t be unusual to come home to find him watching Fox News or another TV news station.”

In high school, Larson was a Nebraska state wrestling champ in Weeping Water. His mother said his choice of university — Georgetown University — reinforced his interest in politics.

And Larson wanted to get as far away from Nebraska as possible.

“And I think I got as far as I could,” he said.

When Larson was in Washington, D.C., he studied political science, anthropology and theology. He said that all three were essential studies to provide background to understand what people believe and why, that, in turn, provides an insight to a community’s politics.

One of Larson’s current committee assignments is agriculture, which includes crop development and livestock issues.

“I want to ensure a strong and healthy Nebraska future,” Larson said. He believes the state is in good shape now, but more needs to be done sooner than later.

“We need to take measures in order to not fall behind,” Larson said. And the state needs to be proactive and not reactive by setting good tax policy and education standards, he said.

Although he’s the youngest state senator, Larson isn’t new to politics. He has worked for former  Sen. Chuck Hagel, R-Neb., and 1st District Republican Congressman Jeff Fortenberry. In college, he was the campaign coordinator for Republican Congressman Adrian Smith’s successful 2006 race for the 3rd District.

Larson also used his talents to help in his adopted Washington, D.C., community by becoming an assistant wrestling coach at the Sidwell Friends School, where President Obama’s two daughters currently attend.

After graduation, with a bachelor’s degree in government and theology, Larson ultimately decided that the “good life” was exactly where he wanted to be.

“The culture of Nebraska is better,” Larson said. “It’s a great place to raise a family. I gave up everything East Coast to come back.”

Larson still has two and a half years until he is up for re-election.

“To be honest, I don’t think I’ll ever not be the youngest,” he said. He’ll turn 26 next month.

Aside from being a state senator, he is the head of business operations of Art Research Technology, which analyzes the art market, and was married last year, where he gained an instant family.

“I inherited a 4-year-old,” Larson said smiling. Larson and his family live in O’Neill, and his parents aren’t too far away in Weeping Water.

And come November, Larson could be even closer to his mother.