U.S. Rep. Steven Horsford on Saturday called on Gov. Brian Sandoval, U.S. Sen. Dean Heller and the Clark County sheriff to take action to move militia members out of Bunkerville after hearing more complaints from residents about the armed supporters of rancher Cliven Bundy.
Horsford, D-Nev., said he spent the morning attending a mayor’s pancake breakfast in Mesquite, which is part of his 4th Congressional District. He said he was approached by residents, including a fifth-grader, who asked him, “What are you going to do to get the militia out?” of the area.
He said the girl also asked him why Bundy refused to pay his grazing fees to the Bureau of Land Management, which attempted to round up his cattle before halting the operation April 12 to avoid violence.
“She said, ‘He should just do what everybody else does and pay his share,’” Horsford said, telling the story to the Clark County Democratic Party convention at the Tropicana.
Horsford said another man called Bundy a “welfare rancher” who’s living off taxpayer subsidies while getting rich by running cattle on public land.
Horsford, who last week complained of the lingering militia presence around Bunkerville, called on Nevada leaders to take action, including Sheriff Doug Gillespie. The sheriff played a role in ending the BLM roundup without incident despite an armed militia confrontation with armed BLM officers.
“I”m calling on Gov. Sandoval, Senator Dean Heller and the sheriff … to do their part to get rid of these armed separatists,” Horsford said, his voice rising. “They don’t belong in Bunkerville or any other part of our community.”
Later, a Horsford spokeswoman said the congressman did not see any militia members on Saturday because he was only in downtown Mesquite and did not travel to the Bunkerville area.
Horsford also has personally contacted the governor to relay his concerns, the spokeswoman said.
However, Tyler Klimas, a spokesman for Sandoval, said Horsford had not reached out to the governor.
“The governor is always available to speak with Congressman Horsford but is not aware of any efforts by the congressman or his office to discuss the matter,” Klimas said.
There was no immediate comment from Heller or Gillespie.
Generally, in order to remove any militias, the sheriff would have to receive a complaint and the members would have had to have broken the law by, say, trespassing on private land.
In an interview last week, Sandoval said he was concerned about how things escalated in Bunkerville, and the goal from Day One was that nobody get hurt.
“I didn’t want any shots to be fired,” Sandoval said on Nevada Newsmakers with Sam Shad. “I didn’t want anybody to get hurt. I didn’t want any innocent bystanders to get hurt. So that’s why I was very aggressive in terms of getting folks to stand down.”
“As I said, any type of loss of life is not worth a cow,” Sandoval added.
The interview took place on Friday and is scheduled to air at 12:30 p.m. Monday on Channel 4 in Reno. Shad’s shows are rebroadcast on KVBC-TV Channel 3 in Las Vegas.
According to Channel 4, Sandoval said locals were worried after seeing several militia groups. The governor said he believes everyone should feel safe in their homes and be able to go about their everyday business.
“So that’s the part where I rely on Sheriff Gillespie,” Sandoval said. “I know that he’s monitoring the situation. We continue to have conversations, we talked yesterday (at) the law enforcement memorial about what was going on out there and I trust in his judgment.”
Asked if Gillespie plans to move militia groups out of the area, Sandoval said, “No, and even if he had said that, I wouldn’t share that with you, because certainly that’s a conversation between the two of us.”
“I just know that he is monitoring the situation and he’s very aware of what’s going on out there,” the governor said.
Bundy has refused to pay grazing fees to the BLM for 20 years, claiming ancestral rights to the public land. After the BLM began rounding up his cattle on April 5, members of militias and other Americans who don’t recognize the federal governor’s control over the land came to Bundy’s defense, traveling to Nevada from other states.
Horsford said that if anyone has ancestral rights to the public land it would be the Moapa Paiute Tribe and not Bundy.
“The public land is there for all of us, not just for him,” Horsford said.
Review-Journal writer Kristy Totten contributed to this report. Contact Laura Myers at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-387-2919. Find her on Twitter: @lmyerslvrj.