Wednesday, June 4, 2014 | 2 a.m.
Within the ongoing national narrative of the Republican party’s identity crisis, think of Assemblyman Cresent Hardy as the establishment candidate.
The Mesquite native and state representative for District 19, which includes Bunkervillle, launched his candidacy for Congress in Nevada’s 4th District with powerful endorsements from the state’s top Republicans, Gov. Brian Sandoval and U.S. Sen. Dean Heller.
In fact, Hardy said he was approached by the Nevada-focused political consulting firm RedRock Strategies last year to run.
“It wasn’t something I planned on doing early on, but when I studied the race, I thought it’s a winnable race,” Hardy said, adding: “I’m truly concerned about the direction the nation is going, so for me, I have to get involved.”
But anything can happen in politics, and seven months later, some would see Hardy as the underdog in the June 10 Republican primary between him and Tea Party candidate Niger Innis, who won the official endorsement from the state’s Republican party. The winner will go on to challenge heavily favored Democratic incumbent Rep. Steven Horsford to represent the northern Las Vegas Valley and parts of central Nevada.
The fifth-generation Nevadan, farmer and businessman isn’t prone to hyperbole like his outspoken opponent. Hardy is clear about where he stands and says voters can take it or leave it.
“What I hope they really relate to is that actually I’m just a regular guy that happens to be a pretty good problem solver,” Hardy said.
Paradoxically, the self-described “constitutional conservative” is asking voters to send him to Washington so he can loosen the power Congress has.
He’d cut down on social welfare programs. He also calls for a flat tax to make doing business easier. He wants to repeal Obamacare, the 2010 federal health care reform law. He opposes same-sex marriage, supports a path to citizenship in immigration reform and wants to offset any federal spending with cost-cutting measures.
“I truly want government out of my life,” he said. “I want to be able to stand on my own two feet, and there’s a real privilege to be able to do that, and I think people want to work and want to be independent.”
Hardy’s matter-of-fact campaign hasn’t been without drama, though.
He’s had to explain why his construction company filed for bankruptcy in early 2012 after owing more than $8 million.
Hardy blames the recession and says he’s proud the company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, which requires his company to pay back each creditor in full, plus interest. He’s since sold his stake in the business.
“We’re not blaming it on anybody,” he said. “We felt there was going to be a dip in the economy, but not this radical change.”
And national left-leaning publications harshly criticized Hardy after a February interview with the Sun where he called a federal proposal to ban workplace discrimination for gays and lesbians “segregation.”
Hardy shrugs off the mini-storm his comment created.
“I’m not an articulate, well-spoken, back-slapping person,” he said. “I’m just a regular guy trying to do this job.”
Campaigning as the guy next door seemed to work well in his 2012 re-election for Nevada’s state Assembly, where he scored high crossover votes from Democrats. For this election, he’s raised more than $150,000 and has $55,000 cash on hand, compared to his opponents’ $66,000, for the last few days of the primary.
If Hardy wins the primary, he’ll have a formidable campaign trying to unseat Horsford, who early polls show is about 12 points ahead of either candidate. But the understated Hardy said he’ll do his best.
“I believe I’m the guy who is the most qualified to be there, in both the primary and general election,” he said.