Published Wednesday, Sept. 24, 2014 | 12:59 p.m.
Updated Wednesday, Sept. 24, 2014 | 4:18 p.m.
Nevada Republican congressional candidate Cresent Hardy is taking heat for concurring with Mitt Romney's controversial comments that 47 percent of voters are dependent on the government.
Hardy's statement came Thursday evening, while he held a meet and greet at Mesquite's Falcon Ridge Golf Club and argued that government has grown too big. Video from the event features an attendee telling Hardy that "we're really not that far from the tipping point where the private sector is going to be able to support the federal sector."
Hardy responded with, "Can I say that without getting in trouble like Gov. Romney? The 47 percent is true. It's bigger now."
Then-presidential candidate Romney said at a private fundraiser in 2012 that 47 percent of voters don't pay income taxes, believe they are victims and think they are entitled to health care and other benefits. He was arguing that he couldn't persuade them to vote for him.
The comments caused a political firestorm before Romney, a former Massachusetts governor, lost the election to President Barack Obama.
Democrats have panned Hardy's comments as out-of-touch.
"Mitt Romney was wrong two years ago about 47 percent of the American people being 'freeloaders,' and Cresent Hardy is just as wrong now," Nevada State Democratic Party spokesman Zach Hudson said in a statement Tuesday. "Hardy's comments only further highlight what we already knew: he supports the same failed Republican policies Mitt Romney ran on."
Hardy, however, is not backing down. In a statement issued this afternoon, Hardy compared himself to Sen. Majority Leader Harry Reid, who recently made an off-hand remark about Asians and is known for speaking candidly.
"Nevada has a long history of politicians willing to speak their mind and if these comments lead Nevada voters to throw out everyone who has ever made a gaffe, I will proudly mark my calendar for Harry Reid’s retirement,” Hardy said.
Hardy, a two-term Nevada assemblyman who is running as the underdog against Democratic incumbent Rep. Steven Horsford, issued a statement noting that he grew up on a ranch and has "never been slick or polished."
"That gives voters a choice. If they want poll-tested words from phony politicians that stand for nothing, they can maintain the status quo," he said. "If they want a representative more focused on progress than political points and more worried about doing the job than keeping the job, then I will gladly serve."
Democrats have criticized other comments from the event, saying Hardy blamed women and minorities for problems in the government.
His statement came after someone asked how people can fix the federal government.
"It's going to take a lot of courageous people," he said. "We're going to have to educate our young people, to make sure they understand that. Those are the people that thought they were living their dream.
"You know, I'm sorry, it's women, and youth under 30 years old that put Obama in the White House again and guess who's paying the biggest price now? Minorities and women and young people," he continued. "And I think a lot of them are coming to their senses, hopefully. But we need to also educate. We know it takes time."
Hardy later explained that he meant a large number of people who voted for Obama now favored Republican and independent candidates.
Hardy and Horsford are seeking to represent the 4th Congressional District, which stretches from urban North Las Vegas to the rural northern towns of Yerington and Ely.
Las Vegas Sun reporter Kyle Roerink contributed to this report.