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Former priest seeking Senate seat asks voters to ‘Run With Charlie’

Charlie Hardy isn’t a typical candidate.

Hardy, a Democrat seeking his party’s nomination for the Senate seat now held by Sen. Mike Enzi, a three-term Republican, stopped in Powell Tuesday. He did a meet-and-greet event at the Park County Fairgrounds and came to the Powell Tribune office for an extended interview.

During that 75-minute talk, Hardy discussed the unique path he has taken that led him to a bid for the U.S. Senate. He’s a populist, he said, but a different kind of one.

“I’m a people-ist,” he said with a smile. “A people-tician.”

Hardy turns 75 in May. This is his second run for office; an independent campaign for the U.S. House in 2012 was derailed when he didn’t collect enough signatures to qualify for the ballot.

“In some ways, I had to run (this year),” he said. “Because people were crying. They had worked so hard to get my name on the ballot. I can’t give up.”

He has four degrees, including master’s in both education and religious education. He can speak 10 languages, although he is fluent in less than half of them.

One of those is Spanish, and Hardy used it a great deal during his years in South America, where he chose to live in a cardboard hut and serve the people. Hardy is a former priest, and survived years living in abject poverty with people who were threatened by a violent, corrupt government.

“Our only job was to live among the people,” he said.

He saw the bodies of young people murdered by their government, and his home was once searched by police officers. Hardy said he is unsure why that happened.

“God only knows,” he said in his rich, fluid voice.

In 1994, he chose the love of a woman he met while working in Venezuela over his vows. He was a priest for three decades before he and Susana were married in 1994.

The couple divorced after six years, but Hardy remained in South America doing social work, spending a quarter century there in total. He finally returned to his hometown of Cheyenne in 2011 and has set his eyes on national office.

No, Charlie Hardy is not your normal, run-of-the-mill candidate. And what’s more, he thinks he can win by running a low-cost campaign centered on traveling across the state, using social media and relying on what he believes are the true values of Wyoming residents.

“I really believe, in Wyoming, we can talk to each other,” he said, noting that his best friend growing up was a Republican while he drank milk from his mother’s breast that was “rich in Vitamin D for Democrat.”

His view of Wyoming

Hardy is a populist with left-of-center views of many issues, including the minimum wage — he wants it raised — same-sex marriage, which he supports, with the government licensing couples to form a union and churches dealing with religious issues, and abortion, which he said is a private matter for a woman to decide.

Hardy said he is not convinced that he is out of step with most residents in the state. In fact, he rejects the theory that the Cowboy State is filled with deeply conservative people devoted to the Republican Party.

“Because I don’t believe that’s where the majority of Wyoming is,” he said. “That’s what our image is.”

Hardy also points out that his positions are nuanced and cannot be considered boiler-plate liberal views. He said no one is in favor of abortion, and he feels men need to stop telling women what to do while taking responsibility for their own actions.

“Men need to shut up about it,” Hardy said. “That’s what I think.”

He said people of all sexual identities deserve respect. God made people differently, Hardy said, and to not accept that is an “insult to God.”

“We’re all different people,” he said. “I think we need to respect the uniqueness of every person.”

The minimum wage should be raised both to help people and to boost the economy, Hardy said. Henry Ford realized more than a century ago that if he paid people better he would have happier, more productive workers, and they would spend money, causing all businesses — including his own — to benefit.

The primary issue Hardy said he hears about is gun control. People are constantly asking him if he supports taking away their guns. Hardy shook his head and smiled as he recalled some of the incidents.

“Democrats do not want to take guns away from people,” he said. “And there are so many other issues.”

He said he would prohibit convicted felons from having guns, and does not support arming teachers. That would not make schools safer, Hardy said.

He said the American criminal justice system is a mess. The United States has 5 percent of the world’s population but 25 percent of the prison population. That must be reformed.

“I didn’t realize the injustice of the justice system,” he said.

He said American foreign policy has only resulted in making more enemies than ever before.

“That is not foreign policy,” Hardy said. “We should try to make friends. I don’t think we’re accomplishing that.”

He favors a smaller military, and said rather than forcing people into unemployment, perhaps they could join the Peace Corps or Americorps and serve others. Hardy talks about “peace bases” and said he envisions Americans helping others, and not merely appearing in uniforms carrying weapons.

He said the immigration policies are both foolish and cruel. Hardy said one woman in Cheyenne who was threatened with a return to Mexico, where a violent husband and an uncertain future awaited her and her child, chose to kill the child and herself and to burn down her home. The woman was working, paying her taxes and contributing to society here, Hardy said.

He has sat through hearings where Mexican citizens were brought before a judge in groups, quickly sentenced and sent back to their country, where no jobs or opportunities awaited them. Incarcerating people and then sending them back to Mexico and other nations wastes money and does no real good, Hardy said.

He said he wants to focus this campaign on better-paying jobs for workers, health care and affordable housing, among other topics. Hardy said he supports the Affordable Care Act — Obamacare — and calls it “a step in the right direction,” even if it is not perfect.

“Health care is a right in my mind,” he said.

Hardy said he would also work to lower costs for college students. Education is both a right and a means to improve the populace and the workforce. The onerous debt college students are incurring now is wrong, he said, and in contrast with American history.

“The middle class was built on the GI Bill,” Hardy said.

A runner in every sense

He said Enzi has become a captive of the far right, and was wrong to vote to shut down the government last fall, which hurt Wyoming residents and businesses. Enzi also disappointed a lot of people by voting against the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act, Hardy said.

“We’ve had this same bill essentially two previous times and I have helped support it and get it through the process,” Enzi said in early 2013, offering a reason for his vote.

“This time, there’s a little part in there that is unconstitutional and we couldn’t get that changed so there was guaranteed due process,” the senator said.

Hardy said he has met Enzi and found him to be a friendly, decent man, but it’s time for him to go. He said he’s happy to at least have a chance to sit down and talk with him; efforts in the past two years to meet with Sen. John Barrasso and Rep. Cynthia Lummis were rejected, he said.

Hardy said in the past, he chatted with prominent politicians such as Dick Cheney, Al Simpson and Craig Thomas, all Republicans, and said longtime Democratic Congressman Teno Roncalio was “a father figure” to him. But now, politicians are not as accessible.

‘I wasn’t able to get an appointment with John Barrasso,” he said. “I can’t talk to Lummis. I couldn’t get 10 minutes of her time. That’s when I said, ‘Something has gone wrong in Wyoming.’”

He’s a daily runner and said he plans to challenge Enzi to both a debate and a road race. Hardy said he feels he can win both, and also believes he can win a Senate race without raising a lot of money.

He has collected donations from friends around the country, and will do some fundraising, but he said there is no way he can approach the millions that Enzi has on hand and will be able to access.

“We’re not going to raise a couple million dollars,” Hardy said. “We don’t need a couple million dollars. I’m not worried. I’m not worried. We’re going to raise money but that’s not our priority.”

He said his slogan is “Run with Charlie” and he wants people to join his campaign. They can run alongside him and help send him to Washington, D.C.

Hardy said he has performed weddings, met people across the state and gained a group of followers during his brief run for Congress in 2012.

“I’m not totally unknown,” Hardy said. “I grew up believing being a politician was a noble profession. Maybe that was naive then and now. But I believe in Wyoming. We are a good people who care about each other.”

For more on Hardy, go to his Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/CharlieHardy2014, or his campaign website, www.RunWithCharlie2014.com.

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2 comments

  • posted by Joanna Taylor

    March 27, 2014 8:42 am

    Very well written article. I am very impressed with the Powell Tribune.

  • posted by George

    March 19, 2014 11:54 pm

    I can see why he's a "former priest" not a current one... No - I'm not judging you I'm just trying to guess what medications you're on!

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