Hardy’s exit stirs GOP competition in Assembly District 19

Three Republicans will square off in the primary for the right to represent their party in what could be one of the general election’s more competitive Assembly contests.

With two-term Assemblyman Cresent Hardy ceding his seat to run for Congress, there is no incumbent in District 19, where Republican voters outnumber Democrats by less than 800 and a quarter of voters are registered with a third party or no party at all.

Laura Bledsoe said Hardy encouraged her to run for his seat after she testified on behalf of “farm-to-fork” legislation during the previous session in Carson City.

Bledsoe, an Overton resident for more than 30 years, operates a small farm that sells memberships to Las Vegas Valley residents and others who want baskets of fresh produce, eggs and other locally produced food delivered to their homes. The operation was raided by health inspectors during a dinner there in 2011, prompting a public outcry and a push for new laws to, as Bledsoe put it, “get rid of the silliness” that keeps people from eating food fresh from the field.

She said as a state lawmaker she would work to cut away more red tape from the “cottage food” industry and push for education reforms that would widen parents’ choices about where their children go to school.

Chris Edwards has scaled back his ambitions somewhat for his second run for office. He ran for Congress in 2012 but lost to Rep. Dina Titus.

He’s saying the same thing now that he did back then: that his experience as a officer in the Navy and contractor, including a posting in Africa, gives him a unique understanding of how government works and how to get things done.

He said his top priority as an assemblyman would be putting people to work by eliminating needless regulations and fees on business.

“We need to look at every way to remove barriers to job creation that we can,” he said.

Edwards said he also wants the state to do more to connect military veterans to potential employers and to better medical care, even if that means cutting other state programs to fund mental health and suicide prevention services the Department of Veterans Affairs can’t seem to adequately provide.

Frank Tavares said he decided to make his first run for public office because he has three young children and he wants to see the state’s education system improved, starting with a detailed review at how money is spent on schools.

He also wants to see the state spend more money on job training programs and public safety, including improved traffic signals and signs to help keep pedestrians safe.

And Nevada would have no problem funding such things, he said, if it followed Colorado’s example and legalized marijuana for recreational use.

Though he doesn’t smoke himself, he thinks Nevada could use its reputation as a “party state” to easily “corner the market” — and dramatically increase revenue and create jobs in the process.

That may not be a traditional Republican position to take, Tavares said, but “I’m not a party-line person. I think everyone should be a free-thinking person. That’s what this country was founded on.”

The winner will meet Democrat James Zygadlo of Henderson and Libertarian Donald Wayne Hendon of Mesquite in the Nov. 4 general election.

Assembly 19 is one of Clark County’s largest, most diverse districts, with a mix of urban and rural residents. It stretches from Mesquite to Hoover Dam but also takes in parts of Henderson, North Las Vegas and Boulder City.

The district also is home to embattled rancher Cliven Bundy and the wide swath of federal land where he has been illegally grazing his cattle for the better part of 20 years.

Bledsoe is squarely on the side of Bundy and his family, whom she describes as “fellow farmers and dear friends of ours.”

“We wouldn’t be having these conversations if he’d kept paying his (grazing) fees,” she said. “This is the cool thing; everybody is talking about Constitution now.”

If elected, Bledsoe said she would join the growing push in Nevada and other Western states to see more federal land relinquished into local control.

Tavares said he wasn’t familiar with “all the legalities of the situation,” but he thinks it’s wrong for Bundy not to pay what he owes, but it’s also wrong for the government to come after him “with guns blazing.”

Edwards said he thought “all parties were right and all parties were wrong” at times during Bundy’s standoff with the Bureau of Land Management. But if the dispute demonstrated anything, it’s that the “federal government needs to return a whole lot more land to the state,” he said.

Contact Henry Brean at hbrean@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0350. Find him on Twitter: @RefriedBrean.

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