Hard to believe Hardy was once the liberal in this race

The inevitable question one takes away from a conversation with congressional candidate and Nevada Assemblyman Cresent Hardy is this: How was this guy ever the liberal in the Republican primary?

Hardy favors a balanced budget, is against raising taxes, thinks all gun background checks violate the Second Amendment, wants to repeal the Affordable Care Act, is against all subsidies and wants the feds to give up all their land and turn it over to the state. Oh, he thinks the Cliven Bundy ranch standoff was mostly the government’s fault.

Fellow conservatives balked at some of his Assembly votes — he voted to create a health insurance exchange for Nevada under the Affordable Care Act, he voted to allow the county commissions in Clark and Washoe counties to raise taxes for various things, and he voted for a budget bill that continued a package of supposedly temporary tax increases that would otherwise have expired.

But today, having survived a primary against TV personality Niger Innis, Hardy positions himself as a true-blue conservative. He’s signed the Americans for Tax Reform anti-tax pledge. He’s all for state’s rights. And he says he would have voted for recent bills supported by the Republican House majority on immigration and suing President Barack Obama for delaying a provision of the Affordable Care Act.

Hardy says he favors balancing the federal budget, although he says he opposes all tax increases and wants to keep both Medicare and Social Security intact. Where will the money come from, then? Hardy claims there’s enough waste, fraud and abuse in the government to close the gap.

“I might be naive, but I don’t believe so,” he said. “It’s amazing what you can do when you have to.”

For the record, the budget deficit — the gap between what the government takes in and what it spends annually — will fall to $492 billion this year, according to Bloomberg News.

Hardy, like many Republicans, placed the blame for the financial crisis upon the federal government’s policies that encouraged home ownership, although he allowed for the possibility that banks had something to do with the crisis.

For the record, according to USA Today, Citigroup agreed to a $7 billion settlement last month over risky, mortgage-backed securities, J.P. Morgan Chase agreed in November 2013 to a $13 billion settlement to settle similar allegations, and Bank of America has reportedly reached a $17 billion settlement agreement.

Asked whether background checks are constitutional, Hardy — a gun owner himself — paused before saying no, although he acknowledged that they have probably had some benefit.

For the record, the U.S. Supreme Court has upheld background checks as consistent with the Second Amendment.

Hardy says he had many conversations with rancher Cliven Bundy before the April standoff over Bundy’s unpaid grazing fees. Bundy said he wanted to have peaceful protests over the principle of access to federal lands for ranchers, a principle with which Hardy sympathizes. But Hardy was clear about who’s to blame for a standoff that could easily have resulted in bloodshed.

“I was shocked at what happened by the federal government that ended up bringing those people out there,” Hardy said, citing the Bureau of Land Management closing off public lands to seize Bundy cattle illegally grazing on federal land, and creating “First Amendment areas” for protests.

But Hardy also claimed that the BLM and federal park rangers had no right to enforce laws on the property in question. Asked about that odd statement, Hardy cited the Constitution and the Federalist Papers, which he said were “part of the Constitution,” although he acknowledged he couldn’t immediately identify a passage to support his contention.

For the record, it’s certainly not this one, from Article IV, Section 3: “The Congress shall have Power to dispose of and make all needful rules and regulations respecting the territory or other property belonging to the United States; and nothing in this Constitution shall be so construed as to prejudice any claims of the United States, or of any particular state.”

Steve Sebelius is a Review-Journal political columnist who blogs at SlashPolitics.com. Follow him on Twitter (@SteveSebelius) or reach him at 702-387-5276 or SSebelius@reviewjournal.com.

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