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CHEYENNE – It probably won’t come as a surprise to many who have followed Wyoming politics to learn that Charlie Hardy will be making a run for U.S. Senate this cycle.

Hardy, a former Catholic priest and substitute teacher in Cheyenne, is making his fourth run for Congress since his first campaign in 2012. In the past, Hardy has run as a Democrat and an Independent. But this year, he’ll run as a Republican, crossing a unique threshold for political candidates in that he’ll have run campaigns in both major parties – and outside of them.

As to why he’s switching to the Republican ticket, Hardy said it’s because “whoever is the Republican candidate for U.S. Senate is the person who will win the election.

“The decision will be made in the primary,” Hardy said. “It’s just math.”

It’s become a crowded GOP primary field in a race with a powerful incumbent, as Hardy is the fourth challenger to U.S. Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo. Any other candidates will need to file with the Secretary of State’s Office today.

But Hardy said he’s not running with a Republican veneer just to sneak into the GOP nomination and undermine it with views contrary to conservatives. Instead, he said he has a different view of what it means to be a Republican compared to the values of national leaders such as Barrasso.

Running as a Republican has not altered any of Hardy’s key platforms from past campaigns. The way to make America the best nation it can be, he said, is to change the relationship between the U.S. and other nations, take so-called “dark money” out of politics, increase the federal minimum wage, and provide universal health care and access to post-secondary education.

In looking at the Republican Party’s 1956 platform, Hardy said he believes it simultaneously embodies the values of being socially progressive and fiscally conservative. That platform included expanding Social Security, broadening coverage and unemployment insurance, better housing and health protection.

“When you look at the platforms today, it’s just sickening,” Hardy said.

While the term “Ronald Reagan Republican” has been thrown around in the race, Hardy is the first to tout himself a Republican in the vein of President Dwight Eisenhower. The former president and World War II Army general’s warning of the military-industrial complex corrupting the nation’s way of life is at the center of Hardy’s message.

If the federal government spent less on defense, Hardy said, there would be ample funding to cover his vision of social programs.

“I got involved with this whole thing because of foreign policy,” he said. “It’s what’s keeping us from having universal health care (and) universal college education. If we’re going to be a stronger nation, let’s have healthy people. Let’s have well-educated people.”

One example where being fiscally conservative and socially progressive cross paths in Hardy’s mind is immigration. He said people crossing the southern border of the U.S. are simply human beings in desperate situations and should be viewed as such. Supposedly “securing” the border with a massive wall and incarcerating border-crossers just costs money without providing any real solutions, Hardy said. And the U.S. has some responsibility to the people of those nations because their dire circumstances are in no small part due to failed foreign policies.

Whether it’s in the Middle East or in nations to the south of the U.S. border, Hardy said the policy failings are on Democrats and Republicans.

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Hardy’s ongoing dedication to seek a seat in Congress started in 2009, he said. Several of Wyoming’s past congressional delegates – including Al Simpson, Craig Thomas and Dick Cheney – took the time to listen to Hardy’s concerns when he’d reach out to them. But in 2009, he said he went to Washington, D.C., in hopes of speaking with former U.S. Rep. Cynthia Lummis, R-Wyo., Sen. Mike Enzi, R-Wyo., and Barrasso. That didn’t happen, and it convinced Hardy that Wyoming deserved better representation in the nation’s capital.

“Throughout my whole life, I’ve tried to be with people who are struggling and whose voices are not heard,” Hardy said.

Whether or not there are four primary candidates to split the vote, it would be an uphill battle to unseat Barrasso. With an unmatched ability to raise funds and powerful backers that include President Donald Trump, it seems now he has a clear path to the general election where he’ll likely face Democrat Gary Trauner and independent candidate Dave Dodson.

But as he has in past years, Hardy will be focusing on meeting people and delivering his message rather than seeking contributions.

“I’ll be raising awareness instead of raising money,” he said.

The 2018 primary is Aug. 21, with the general election following Nov. 6.

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