Telling it like it is bringing the community together and working for justice attorney Travis McConnell talks, politics trending news, and how you can make a difference. You’re listening to, We Trust Travis.
Hi everyone I’m Sarina Fazan. I’m a journalist, host, and producer. Welcome to this episode of We Trust Travis. Travis McConnell is a personal injury attorney who has a huge passion for the community. So let’s get right to the show. Hi Travis.
Hey Sarina. It’s good to be back again with you today. Thanks to Mike too. We’ll get to him in a minute. I’m sure.
Yes, absolutely. So Travis McConnell is joining us from his offices in Warsaw, Indiana. He is a practicing attorney in Indiana and Florida. And joining me in the studio, I have to say is a man that I’ve admired for years, Mike Deeson. 12 time, Emmy award winning investigative journalist. And I’m so happy and excited to introduce the two of you
Sarina is just not a cohost. She’s my friend for a long, long time. So I’m delighted to be here, Travis. I’m great to be here. I look forward to our discussion today. This
Discussion is going to be a lively one with these two, we’re talking about, I, you know, like honestly guys for this show, I’ll probably be sitting back and letting you to carry on. We’re actually talking about elections, how COVID has changed really the face of that. And Travis, before we get into it, tell us about your political history.
Yeah, so I grew up here in rural Indiana where I’m at now, not that far from here in Warsaw. So it’s been my, my grandmother was actually the one that probably first got me interested in politics. She was involved in the Republican party in Allen county. She was a assessor for the Allen county assessor’s office and was a very diehard Republican involved in the party. And I went to school on a political science major. So I studied it from an academic point of view and international studies and political science as well as a double major and, and threw on some Spanish too, just for fun. And while I was in school, I worked for the state GOP in Indianapolis. And then I also did an internship in Canada for a member of parliament Bob mills, who was a member of, I think at that time that was the Alliance, their political parties kind of change up there with the way they put their multi-party system.
And but actually got to be published in the parliament loader or rant for the minister that he read in the parliament back in the day. And then from there, you know, I kinda got out of politics for a minute focused on just helping people in the community, but then just a couple of years ago I decided to jump back in and I ran for commissioner here in Kosciusko county where I’m at as Kosciusko county commissioner, we got little over 7,000 votes, but the other guy got more. So still focusing on the lawyer thing and getting that
Right. So, you know I love to make the show personal as well. So isn’t it something Mike, to hear Travis talking about his grandmother because you are a grandfather and the influence that grandparents can have even on their kids.
Yeah, absolutely. I mean, Travis, in my home, growing up in Chicago, we got four newspapers every day. We watched the news in night together as my dad was reading the newspapers at all. So it was ingrained in me to be a journalist. And my maternal grandparents lived with us as well. And my grandfather read us news and world report every week. And, and we would have these discussions about that. So grandparents obviously to have a huge influence and I try to have an influence with my grandchildren as well and talk to them about the news and what’s going on.
And speaking of news and what is going on, you have covered how many presidents, how many elections, and that’s why I wanted you on this show with Travis. I just feel like you’re such an expert that can talk about what’s going on in this country right now.
Well, yeah, I, I, I have covered every president since Gerald Ford. He was the first president that I covered and have had a vast interest in politics. I worked in Norfolk, Virginia before I came to Tampa bay in the early eighties. And I was a political reporter there. And what got me into becoming an investigative reporter was the fact that covering politics. I found several lies that politicians would tell and I’d be able to dig through paperwork at all and point out the lies they told. And that led me to become an investigative reporter, which I think is the best job in in, in journalism. So I have an avid interest in politics because it needs to be under the microscope. And it, unfortunately I think that almost everybody who runs for political office runs with good intentions. They have a belief in certain values, they have ideas. They think they can make their community, their country, their state better, but power often corrupts. And once they get into office, they spend so much time trying to keep that office rather than serving their constituents. It, it causes problems and that’s where we get into some of the issues that we have today.
Absolutely. So Travis, speaking of issues, talk about some of the challenges you may have faced running for office during this unprecedented time of COVID and how you feel this honestly still continues. And then Michael, have you weigh in on it?
Well, from like a COVID perspective there was, there weren’t a lot of events. There were no parades there to walk through and there were no anything like to get your name out there even knocking on people’s doors. Some people didn’t want to answer, but I still went out and met with people on canvas and did a little knock knock and then walked back six feet to give people their social distance that would answer their doors and had a mask on for quite some time and not every time, but a lot of the time. And then so yeah, I mean the big thing is just the lack of events to really get to know people all, to get people to come and that sort of thing. And in one aspect that made it, I suppose, less busy. But on the other aspect that it makes it harder to get your name out there.
Well we kind of became known for it. We had a lot of signs is what we had we had the county pretty well. Saturated was things. And actually we put them up a little bit earlier than is customary around here and had a bit of an issue that made the nearest, because one of the cities tried to say that beta sign, an ordinance that, that we ended up explaining to them, you know, first amendment issues and things like that. And that kinda made the news a little bit. We got people a little flustered, but took science one way or the other about, we don’t want to see your signs all the time or not. And so that’s kind of what we kind of became known for, but and then just getting out there and knocking on the doors.
I mean, th the biggest obstacle, it wasn’t so much COVID related for me. It’s the fact that even though I worked for the state GOP and my grandmother was a Republican and I was as well, I actually ran as a Democrat and it’s a re rather conservative area where I’m at. So that was probably the biggest hurdle was just with the national politics and the animosity and the heat on both sides. I’ve you tell people, the only question they would ask is, or you’re running as a Republican or Democrat or Republican or Democrat, and then for the shirt short version, and you knew when they asked that it was always a Republican that was asking from my experience, I’m sure you’d get the opposite experience if you’re somewhere in California and Massachusetts, probably on the other side, but here in Indiana, that’s what we had to deal with. And in a lot of times they just wouldn’t even talk. They wouldn’t even engage. They didn’t, they don’t want to actually have a discussion.
So I am so anxious for you to weigh in because do you feel like, you know, what happened in this past year and a half is still affecting things today?
Well, yeah, yes or no. First off with COVID in many ways, it made the electorate more aware of what was going on because they were at home a lot more so they could see a lot more TV and see what was going on in those terms and the turnout in the elections because of the dropping off the ballots, the early voting at all, at least here in Florida was, was up because of the COVID experience that, that we all had. So that changed things in, in some degree for the better. And in what I found amazing was after the 20, 20 election in Florida, at least governor Ron DeSantis said we had the best, the cleanest, the most wonderful election that we’ve ever had. And then the legislature comes into session and says, we have to put all sorts of new election laws into place to restrict the ability for people to vote.
It makes no sense if you look at what DeSantis said after the election was held in Florida, when they had problems theoretically and other states, and with what the legislature did and with what he pushed, it made absolutely no sense. There were mixed messages coming. They were fixing a problem that didn’t exist in the legislature, ignored problems that that needed to be addressed. And I’m not just talking about election problems, all sorts of other problems, including COVID, which is rearing its ugly head again with the new strength. The other thing that I find fascinating in Florida when I moved here in 1982, the democratic primary was the election, the legislature and the state was so democratically leaning with democratic governors, legislators, and the such that the, the democratic primary determined who was going to win the election. The Republicans had very, very few elected toward elected offices statewide that they were able to do the Reagan revolution change that to some degree, even though he was elected in 1980 and Bob Martinez, the former Tampa mayor who switched from being a Democrat to a Republican, then became the first Republican governor in eons to be elected as a governor of the state of Florida, Lawton, chiles Democrat, then mixed it back up with, with Democrat getting back into office.
But then after Jeb won Jeb lost the first time to, to Lawton Chiles, but then after Jeb won, you were followed by Charlie, Chris, Rick Scott, and Ron DeSantis, and the legislature has been so Republican then, and then as Travis mentioned, there is such a anger between the two parties. It used to be at one point that, okay, Republicans had one view, Democrats had other views, but they could get along, but that is no longer the case. It is like a battle like a war and they hate each other. So it’s really changed. Well,
That’s why we’re still talking, you know, about this Travis, you also wanted to bring up voting centers in Indiana. That’s what they’re discussing. Can you, can you share some insight on that?
Sure. So basically voting centers are an idea where you have a super polling location instead of individual polling locations, where anybody can go or more can go than just one particular precinct where it’s located. And the idea as they explain it is like we’ll put a super polling location at Walmart and then like one people are to try and make it more convenient to get increased voting, to make it easier for people to actually get the ability to vote, because it’s going to be a more convenient thing to where they’re shifting to less locations, but you can vote at any of them. And then there’s also talk of additional days here and there, things like that, and Indiana is moving forward with them. And our county is no exception. They actually had a meeting, I think just last week. They’ve been working on it as far as the people in the official offices and the two parties working together.
And they’re actually going to be keeping all, but I think one or two of the precinct locations to try and minimize the effect on closing locations, because that was an issue during COVID that came up when I was knocking on people’s doors and asked them if there was anything that they were concerned about or that I could help with nine times out of 10, that I would get a response to that it wasn’t about necessarily a policy decision going forward. It was my polling station was closed during the primary, where am I going to be able to vote? And they wanted to know that because, and then come to find out. After I talked with the clerk’s office, a lot of the locations were smaller locations and they weren’t able to accommodate people due to social distancing requirements. And so that was another impact that COVID had. And we were able to get more locations, bigger locations, and open them back up. Like there were some places where like you have to go to the next town over where it’s not a big drive, but you know, that’s a 20 minute drive. Whereas before you had to just a couple of minutes from your house sort of thing, or you’d walk there,
But, you know, Travis, it surprises me that Indiana is trying to make it easier to vote because it is such a Republican leaning state. The Republican party does not want more people to vote just from the demographic breakdown of the United States. In the next five to 10 years, the white voter is going to be in the minority. So in traditionally Latinos and African-American voters vote democratic. So the Republican party is facing a true problem because the majority of their voters are elderly white males. And so they want to suppress the vote of brown and black people. So Indiana is progressive in that respect, in terms of the Republican party, pushing it, that will never happen in Florida. After this session of the legislature, it is clear the Republican party once fewer people to vote and making it harder to get to the polls, less access, particularly for poor people, for brown people, for black people, I’m amazed that that went on in Indiana.
Well, I’m, I’m kinda concerned that there’s more to it than what’s going on where I think there’s a bit of an excuse or a pivot because they’re worried about a lack of volunteers to work polling locations. And the ultimate goal will be to continue to close more and more polling locations. And as they close them, it’ll be interesting to see which ones get closed
My bet is in the minority communities, Travis,
And, and that’s what my bet would be as well. And what my concern would be is, you know, as we watch, like, you know, they’re, they’re going to close the locations that are in the areas where people rely on public transportation or walking and like, well, you can go to Walmart and vote. Well, I don’t go to Walmart. I go to this place right over here in my neighborhood. And so they’re going to use the argument. Well, we’ve actually increased it. Well, actually they’ve decreased the at the same time is what I’m concerned about,
But it, it does, it does make a, an availability of voting that again, I would, I would bet Florida would never do something like that. I understand your argument about closing the polling places, but in some ways it does open up voting where anybody at any time could walk into a polling place and vote regardless of where they live.
Yeah. And when, as long as they continue to provide access in locations that are readily accessible by everyone in the end, you know, then it, it sounds like a great idea, you know, and it does sound like something that would be more convenient. I think they’ve tested it in a couple of places and participation went up slightly, things like that, or stayed the same. So we will see. And
While this isn’t, you know, a traditional big voting year, right? Why is it so important to still talk about the issues like this?
Well, what’s going to happen in the 2022 election. It was determined at a national level, whether the Democrats control the house and the Senate, it’s so narrow in the house and in the Senate, it’s split at 50 50 that already you have some type of gridlock with the 50 50 vote in the filibuster on all on the national level. So if the Republicans gained control of either of the houses and traditionally an off year elections, the party out of power does better. Then you’ll have complete gridlock and nothing will get done until 2024, which is just really sad. I mean, our government is supposed to work, not just tread water, but that’s why this election will be so vitally important and COVID will be a big issue. I mean, especially with the resurgence of the variants coming through and the people refusing to get vaccinated mostly in red states and the people who are now going into hospitals in dying 99% of them have not been vaccinated and are the just complete falsehoods that are being put out.
I saw a thing this morning where the governor of Arkansas it was, was dice. Hutchinson was talking to people about getting vaccinated in Arkansas and he was booed down and people screaming from the audience that vaccinations cause infertility, he had the state’s head doctor there saying that is just not true. And that actually people who have survived COVID may have fertility problems, but the people in that forum and there were there, it looked, it sounded like there were several hundred people were screaming it down and said they wouldn’t get the vaccinations. I think COVID is going to be a big issue in the next election. You
Know what I honestly, the bottom line is right? Whether you’re a Democrat, Republican, independent, I know in my 23 years as a journalist, I have never seen though such anger and something needs to happen, right. For that to subside. And the country needs to start coming together again. So how does it feel? How does that happen? It started
Before Donald Trump, it started with Newt Gingrich, Sam Gibbons, who was longtime Congressman from this area, told me that in his estimation, the jet airplane in Newt Gingrich ruined politics because, but he told me was when he first was elected to Congress in 1960, they didn’t fly home every weekend. They would have cocktail parties on the weekend. And who do you invite to cocktail parties? People you’ll work with. So there were Democrats and Republicans. So he said if, if he was having a drink with somebody on Saturday night and then Monday he introduced his legislation and his Republican opponents as though Sam, I can’t go with that. He said he could look at them as a friend and say, okay, how about if I modified this and then do something for you on the bill that you’re sponsoring. And they got things done well, when the jet airplane allowed congressmen to come home all the time and Newt gameful Gingrich, as the majority leader of the house told his members, you must go home every weekend, talk to your people. And this is war. The Democrats are not your friends. This is not a collegial body. We are at war with them. That’s when it all started. And then it did move down through the years and exacerbated with the election of Donald Trump who then sort of turned it into a war of unbelievable magnitude.
No. Okay. You know, honestly, it’s, everybody has very strong opinions and that’s why I appreciate you, Mike and the show and Travis, you on the show. But I think no matter what you believe, right. And I’m not saying I believe one way or the other, but the thing that you point out like that I think is so important to note, it does boil down to connections with people and being able, communicate with somebody, being able to talk with somebody, no matter again, what party you are and talking about those cocktail parties, you know, the dinner parties, it’s people coming together and clearly with COVID, it’s been very hard because so much of it has been, you know, on this thing or on the phone right. So yeah, so
Biology has impacted the community. I mean, this it’s, how do you fix it? You got to get people to talk to each other again, and eating together is even better. I mean, that’s how you fix it. I mean, we’ve identified what caused it to go off the rails, but technology, I mean, you can go back even farther and say, they say that the death of community started with air conditioning because people used to sit on their porches and they used to, and when they’re on their porches and people would walk by, they’d talk to each other. And so I started with air conditioning, well,
To the growth of the south that led to the growth of the south Travis people would, people didn’t want to relocate here. You know, I never complained about the heat I grew up in Chicago. I, I hate calling. So I never, I might mention that it’s a little hot out, but I never complained about it. But without air conditioning people, you wouldn’t have had the migration to the south that we had and made the south such an important force here.
But I do love what Travis said about it is it is true that like people congregating on the lawn, going to the picnics, talking to your neighbors. I mean, we live in such a change world that our kids, you know, can’t even be outside without us being fearful of where they’re going. I mean, I certainly didn’t grow up that way. I mean, you know, I’d come home from school, you know, give my mom a kiss on the cheek, leave and not come back until dinner time. That’s
How I spend my summers there. When the sun goes down the street lights, go on, make sure you take your bicycle and go home. Absolutely it’s it’s it’s champ. But on the other hand, let me say this, that the ability of having zoom conferences at all has been able to broaden some of our touch. For, for example, I have done a bunch of seminars and talk I’ve recently written a book or a year ago, so, and done a bunch of things with my book, with people in Washington, people in Chicago, I did one in Canada. So, so it has in some ways, while we’re separated and we have been brought closer together that I can do things around the country from the comfort of the studio I have in my
Yes, no, absolutely. There are lots of pluses and minuses. Travis, what were you going to say?
I was just saying, I agree with that, right? I mean, there’s, there’s upsides and downsides with the technology, right? I mean, like having our phones that we can have, you know, this wealth of information at our fingertips is great, but it comes with certain downsides, like one thing people demand an immediate response. Now it’s like, people’s turnaround time. They want you, they expect you to be connected at all times. And like that’s had an impact on people’s mental health. I know one thing that I, you know, I’ve done myself is like, I’ve, I’ve taken my email off my phone to where that way I can at least disconnect a little bit on the weekend. If I don’t have my computer around where I can, you know, and people generally know that in the emails were wait and you’ll get back to them.
But yeah, it’s been, it’s been interesting, the impact and you know, like the air conditioning, it goes both ways with like the community, but yeah, it’s definitely led to the rise of the south, which has a whole other political implications. But then you look at like, everybody lives in their bubbles. We look at social media, things like that. That’s a whole other discussion that we could have where people end up being in their little bubbles on social media and just echo chambers that they continue to talk with people who agree with them. And then when they talk to the people that don’t, they’re just screaming at each other. And I know a couple of friends where like, it’s interesting, like, I’ll talk about like, there’s real life. You know, let’s say, Andy, I’m just making up a name. There’s real life, Andy. And then there’s Facebook. And like, they’re not the same person. There’s something about being behind the screen that changes people sometimes too.
Well, you know, the cell phone is changing everything. One of the things I wanted, this has nothing to do with politics, but it might in the future, my three and a half year old grandson, the first thing he does when I see him, as he’ll say, can I look at something on your phone? So he’s looking at videos on my phone with superheroes and all of that stuff. What I wonder is he’s not unique. I mean, it’s, it’s all kids, his age are doing that. So what happens when these kids get to first grade and the teacher starts writing on a static, whatever they call it, white boards, green boards, or whatever now, and they don’t move and they don’t have the action. Will these kids just sort of tune out all of a sudden? I mean, that, that really concerns me how that’s, how that’s going to have an effect on society.
And it will also have an effect on how people do their spots for political races. I mean, there’s a lot of activity on, on the social media, but with spots, the Lincoln project is a prime example. They’re an anti Trump organization made up mostly of Republicans, but they run most of their spots on social media. And, and even, which is sort of funny as my grandson is looking for his superhero things, you know, you gotta see the ad first, sometimes a political ad will come up, you know, as soon as he’s learned enough to when it says skip ad, he punches the thing, but still in all that will have an effect that this, the cell phone and whatever technology we have in how political campaigns are run in the future.
Isn’t that something, see, going back to the beginning of the show though, a grandparent’s influence. So Mike, okay. Before we wrap up the show and give Travis the last word I’m sure Travis would not mind if you throw in a plug for your book, what’s your book
It’s called bad news for you is good news for me. It’s about my 50 years as an investigative reporter, it’s available on Amazon available on audible. I recorded it, which was really a bear to record, but it it’s got some great stories, had wonderful reviews. If you have any interest in journalism and politics in Florida, I’ve got a whole chapter on executions where I’ve been a witness about the raise, the bucks all the mob, the mafia, which was really big in Tampa. I think you’ll enjoy the book. So it’s Amazon and
Audible. Well, we really enjoyed having you here, Travis. Final thoughts.
No, I mean, I think we’ve, we’ve kind of talked about it as far as the, you know, it’d be interesting to hear Mike’s perspective on investigative journalism. I know one thing that like I’ve had concern too, is just like the decline in investigative journalism and the impact that has on political stuff in particular in government oversight where there’s less and less budgets, it seem like where people dedicate to investigative journalism and the kind of the decline in focusing on that where you there been the impact on the media has been huge to where it’s been more about generating revenue and less about the investigative stuff. Do you have any thoughts on that mic and the impact? Yeah, I was going to say
We can’t wrap up the show yet. When you, when you asked that question that we have to get involved with journalists, here’s
The deal, investigative journalists are expensive because they can’t just put the kids on it. It just falls flat. So they’re more experienced. They have to pay them more money. It takes more time to do an investigative report. So you might not be on the air every night and they’re paying you a lot of money. So a lot of stations have cut back on on that. They just, they don’t want to rock the boat. They say. And they’re worried about that. They’re also worried about lawsuits. I was sued a ton of times on every one on summary judgment because all of my stories were reviewed on several levels, including the final level from our Washington attorney who put me on the witness stand basically and made me defend every line in the thing, but a lot of stations and newspapers to have cut back because it’s expensive. And that is really sad. That is the most important thing that journalists do is investigate and hold people accountable. And I’m concerned about that as well. I mean, I’m an old fart, you know, and so I, I liked it. I was in the golden era of local TV, but it certainly changed the no.
And I can honestly say that about myself too. I mean, traditional news is not what traditional news used to be and what we got in it for. That’s why for me too, I’m doing something. I feel like streaming shooting shows like this is where the future is. And also to your point, Travis, to your point, Mike, everything is so immediate. And in traditional news stations, you there’s a mandate sometimes that we got, you have to get it on social before you even get it on traditional airwaves. So it, the whole world, it has changed, completely
Changed. Yeah. They want to be first, not necessarily, right. I’d rather be running them first.
And we have that here with like, we have a local print paper, it’s got a website, but then there’s also like a, a paper. That’s not actually a paper it’s that, you know, it’s just called ink free news. They run with the fact that they don’t actually have ink. And they’re all, you know, they, it seems like more often than not the priority is like, get there first sort of thing. Look
At the Tampa Bay Times here, they publish on Wednesday and Sunday. That’s, I’m an old fart. I like the tactical sense of holding a newspaper, getting the print on my hand. But like I say, I’m an old fart that people like me are dying off. So everything’s, I read it online on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. But I liked that Wednesday and Sunday paper where I can hold it well
Until I do too. I do too. But until television, as we know, it catches up, Mike, how, how do we hold people accountable? I guess it boils down to us. It’s
All right. It boils down to us. And, and, and there are some streaming services that are trying to do just that, but it’s expensive again. It’s very expensive. Well, thanks for sharing guys,
For sure. Yeah, no, absolutely. Absolutely. And again, Mike, thank you so much for being here. Travis, where are you going to say one last thing?
No, I was just saying thanks. And yeah, so
I knew that this would be such a great episode of We Trust Travis to have such, such wonderful, wonderful personalities on the show. So thank you everybody so much for joining us for this episode, please share. And like the video and stay safe out there
To learn more about Travis McConnell head to TravisMCLaw.com. Thank you for listening to We Trust Travis.