Can­di­date ac­cused of do­mes­tic vi­o­lence, sex­ist state­ments

The News & Observer (Sunday) - - Triangle & N.c. -

Den­nis Nielsen, a John­ston County gun shop owner and Repub­li­can can­di­date for N.C. Sen­ate Dis­trict 11, faces al­le­ga­tions of do­mes­tic vi­o­lence from his wife.

With a re­drawn dis­trict and the re­tire­ment of Sen. Rick Horner, R-Nash, at the end of the cur­rent term, the Dis­trict 11 race has at­tracted five ma­jor­party can­di­dates, in­clud­ing three Repub­li­cans, mak­ing for the big­gest field and the largest Repub­li­can pri­mary in any state Sen­ate race this year.

One of Nielsen’s pri­mary op­po­nents, N.C. Rep. Lisa Stone Barnes, R-Nash, told Carolina Pub­lic Press this week that Nielsen has said she was not qual­i­fied to hold the of­fice be­cause she is a woman. Barnes cur­rently rep­re­sents por­tions of Nash and Franklin coun­ties in N.C. House Dis­trict 7.

“He said I wasn’t qual­i­fied to run be­cause I was a woman,” she said. “I be­lieve I am the most qual­i­fied of the can­di­dates when you look at my ex­pe­ri­ence and back­ground.

“In 2020, I find that very, very sur­pris­ing and dis­ap­point­ing that he would make that kind of state­ment, and then to learn that he has this do­mes­tic vi­o­lence is­sue, too, is very con­cern­ing.”

For his part, speak­ing to CPP Wed­nes­day, Nielsen cat­e­gor­i­cally de­nies he said any­thing sex­ist about Barnes.

“That’s ab­surd,” he said. “First of all, I don’t think any­one should print hearsay. If you heard some­thing your­self, go ahead and print it. I think she’s a good can­di­date. In fact, if I don’t win, I think she should win.”

How­ever, a re­porter for The Wil­son Times told CPP that Nielsen also re­fused to speak with a fe­male re­porter about the do­mes­tic vi­o­lence al­le­ga­tions against him. The Wil­son Times pub­lished an ar­ti­cle about the is­sue, writ­ten by Lin­dell Kay, ear­lier this week.


Nielsen’s wife, Karen Nielsen, filed a re­quest for a do­mes­tic vi­o­lence or­der of pro­tec­tion on Jan. 13. In the 16-page doc­u­ment, she said Nielsen tracked her move­ments with elec­tronic de­vices, bul­lied her dis­abled son and pre­vents her from work­ing.

She says in her com­plaint that he pushed her, which caused her to slip down the stairs and hit her head. Nielsen said he has never hit, shoved, or pushed her or any other woman.

She wrote that af­ter he as­saulted her and left mul­ti­ple bruises, he took her keys and phone, “de­priv­ing me of the abil­ity to leave un­less (it was) with him.”

“He says if I refuse to go with him and call a ride … that he will call 911 and say I as­saulted him,” she wrote.

Den­nis Nielsen has at times stood in front of the car when she tried to leave and threat­ened to call 911 if she tried to drive past, putting his foot on the tire, Karen Nielsen wrote. At times, he has re­moved the li­cense plates from ve­hi­cles to pre­vent her from driv­ing them, she said.

When CPP asked Den­nis Nielsen if he re­fused to al­low her to drive one of their many cars, as her fil­ing says, he laughed and then said, “First of all, that’s not do­mes­tic vi­o­lence.”

“All of that stuff is, again, we don’t know if it’s true,” he said. “… We have five cars, and she can drive any of them she wants to.”

Her fil­ing also said he threat­ens to charge her with crimes un­less she sleeps with him.

When reached by phone, Karen Nielsen, 52, told CPP that at one point she started sleep­ing in an­other bed­room.

“He then gave me a let­ter that said un­til we were of­fi­cially sep­a­rated, my place was in the mar­i­tal bed, and it wasn’t ap­pro­pri­ate for his wife to be in an­other room,” she said late Wed­nes­day.

She wrote to the court that the ma­jor is­sue is her hus­band’s “rigid per­son­al­ity and lack of em­pa­thy for any­one ‘dif­fer­ent’ or not per­fect and re­spect­ful at all times, even un­der stress­ful, high-con­flict sit­u­a­tions.”

At one point, her do­mes­tic vi­o­lence fil­ing said, he gave her eight pages on “How to be a sub­mis­sive wife,” which in­cluded quotes from the Bi­ble.

The week be­fore she filed for a do­mes­tic vi­o­lence or­der of pro­tec­tion, Karen Nielsen said her hus­band at­tended a po­lit­i­cal din­ner. On that date, the John­ston

County Repub­li­can Party held its Jan­uary meet­ing.

Karen Nielsen said she re­fused to at­tend with him. When he re­turned, he told her she would have liked the event. He started telling her about all of the high-pro­file peo­ple who were there. “And then he started name-drop­ping judges,” she said.

The fol­low­ing Mon­day she filed a re­quest for a pro­tec­tive or­der, and af­ter that, Dis­trict Judge Jimmy Love Jr. heard her case. She said she felt scared be­cause Love is one of the judges her hus­band told her that he met dur­ing that Repub­li­can Party func­tion.

She said Love con­tin­ued the case. The clerk’s of­fice con­firmed the next court date is Jan. 31. Dur­ing this time, the pro­tec­tive or­der re­mains in place.

The can­di­date said he owns a gun store, a busi­ness that he said is now ef­fec­tively side­lined be­cause the pro­tec­tive or­der for­bids him from hav­ing firearms.

Still, Karen Nielsen said she’s torn. She said he is not al­ways a bad per­son.

In 1989, when Den­nis Nielsen served in the Iowa Na­tional Guard, United Air­lines Flight 232 crashed short of the run­way in Sioux City, Iowa, in a pin­wheel of flames. De­bris was strewn for hun­dreds of feet, from a corn­field that ab­sorbed the ini­tial im­pact, past the end of the run­way.

From the dis­as­ter, dur­ing which 112 of its 296 pas­sen­gers died, an iconic im­age of hero­ism raced around the world: of Nielsen cradling a dis­traught 4-yearold sur­vivor as he car­ried the boy to safety.

“When he’s good, he’s good,” Karen Nielsen said. “He can make me feel like the smartest, most beau­ti­ful, the sex­i­est woman. He can put me on a pedestal so high and love bomb me to death and then kick it out from un­der me and make me feel like

I have no worth at all. I kind of ac­cepted who he was, but he wouldn’t ac­cept me.”

When asked by CPP if she had con­tacted the John­ston County Sher­iff’s Of­fice, she said she had tried.

“I called the sher­iff’s of­fice and they wouldn’t do a thing for me,” be­cause it was a he-said­she-said case, Karen Nielsen said.

“He had al­ready told me ev­ery­thing that was go­ing to hap­pen if I ever did a com­plaint on him. I will make you look so bad. I will tell ev­ery­body that you’re crazy.”

Ear­lier Wed­nes­day, some­one who an­swered the phone at the sher­iff’s of­fice told CPP that there were no crim­i­nal cases pend­ing re­lated to Karen Nielsen’s re­port of do­mes­tic vi­o­lence.


Sen­ate Dis­trict 11 is among those where the lines were re­drawn late last year af­ter a ju­di­cial panel ruled that leg­is­la­tors ger­ry­man­dered po­lit­i­cal dis­tricts with a hy­per­par­ti­san aim.

The old Dis­trict 11 in­cluded all of Nash County, where Democrats have a sub­stan­tial edge, plus a strip of John­ston County along its north­west­ern bound­ary with Wake County that was pri­mar­ily ru­ral and helped give Repub­li­cans a de­cided edge across the dis­trict.

The new Dis­trict 11 in­cludes much of Selma and Smith­field, with large mi­nor­ity pop­u­la­tions that may be more likely to fa­vor Democrats. As a re­sult, the new Dis­trict 11 may be more up for grabs be­tween the par­ties.

Rep. Barnes said the dis­trict’s pop­u­la­tion has ex­ploded in the past sev­eral years, espe­cially on the western side of both coun­ties, the area near­est to Raleigh.

“A lot of farm­ers are con­cerned about the growth and the di­min­ish­ing farm­land there,” she said. “I’m hear­ing they can’t af­ford to pass up that op­por­tu­nity to de­velop their land when you have so many risks in farm­ing with the weather, reg­u­la­tions, com­mod­ity prices and the la­bor sup­ply.”

Barnes, Nielsen and Patrick Har­ris of Smith­field will face off in the March Repub­li­can pri­mary.

Nielsen told CPP that he does not be­lieve women should face do­mes­tic abuse, but asked, “Do you re­al­ize a woman can make a threat, make an al­le­ga­tion, and it may not even be true and de­stroy a man’s life?”

He com­pared his sit­u­a­tion to that of Supreme Court Jus­tice Brett Ka­vanaugh. Dur­ing Ka­vanaugh’s con­fir­ma­tion hear­ings be­fore the Ju­di­ciary Com­mit­tee of the U.S. Sen­ate in 2018, Ka­vanaugh faced ques­tions re­gard­ing an al­leged sex­ual in­ci­dent at a high school party in the 1980s, which Ka­vanaugh has strongly de­nied.

Nielsen said he doesn’t know whether Ka­vanaugh is guilty or not.

“A woman makes a threat and says I did some­thing when I say I didn’t do any­thing — but it doesn’t mat­ter,” Nielsen said. “So now I’m a 71-year-old vet­eran. … I can’t go back to my house. I can’t get my clothes. I can’t do any­thing, and this woman has put me out of my house for a year, and I’ve not even been to court.”

Nielsen said “the pen­du­lum has swung too far one way” and said the courts be­lieve women with­out proof.

“We need to have laws that pro­tect men to make sure they don’t be­come the vic­tims of women who make up th­ese sto­ries and who get con­trol of the houses and con­trol of men’s prop­erty and ev­ery­thing,” Nielsen said. “They don’t have to prove any­thing.”


Nielsen re­cently spoke with re­porter Kay at the Wil­son news­pa­per re­gard­ing his wife’s fil­ing ear­lier this month. Kay’s ar­ti­cle said Nielsen pro­vided a copy of his wife’s com­plaint to the news­pa­per.

Kay told CPP that Nielsen re­fused to speak with a fe­male re­porter when he came to the news­pa­per to pro­vide doc­u­ments in the case ear­lier this month.

“He didn’t want to talk to a fe­male,” Kay said. “He was pretty clear about that.”

When asked if Kay heard Nielsen say that Barnes wasn’t qual­i­fied be­cause she is a woman, Kay told CPP: “I am not deny­ing that he said that.”

“Any­one that knows the colonel knows that’s him throug­hand-through.”

When CPP asked Nielsen if he re­fused to speak with a fe­male re­porter, Nielsen said ini­tially, “I never went in to talk to the news­pa­per.”

When chal­lenged, he dou­bled down: “I was never in­ter­viewed.”

When told that he was quoted in The Wil­son Times in an ar­ti­cle writ­ten by Kay, Nielsen then said he talked to Kay over the phone.

Later in the con­ver­sa­tion with CPP, Nielsen said he did go to the of­fice to drop off doc­u­ments with “the peo­ple in the front.”

When CPP told Nielsen that Kay was on record say­ing he re­fused to talk with any fe­male re­porter, Nielsen paused for sev­eral sec­onds be­fore re­spond­ing.

“That’s not true,” he said. “Here again, we have the fake news who make stuff up.”

Nielsen said he’d talk to any­body, man or woman.

“Guess what? I think you’re a fe­male, and I think I’m talk­ing to you,” Nielsen said. “I’ll talk to any­body. I know you’re not go­ing to print this stuff. This is what’s wrong with this coun­try. The news­pa­pers make this stuff up.”

N&O file

Den­nis Nielsen, a Repub­li­can state Sen­ate can­di­date and owner of a John­ston County gun shop, faces al­le­ga­tions of do­mes­tic vi­o­lence from his wife.

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