Charlie Hardy, a former Catholic priest and social justice activist who ran for the U.S. Senate two years ago in a 1970 Crown school bus, is again seeking federal office.
The Cheyenne resident said Friday he is running for Wyoming’s U.S. House seat, which will be vacated by U.S. Rep. Cynthia Lummis.
Hardy, a Democrat, plans to bring the same message against money in politics, which he believes sways politicians’ loyalties from average people and trains their attention to the needs of corporations.
“This whole question of money in politics — there’s just that feeling that elections are bought and sold,” he said. “They’re not won. If you have more money, you can fill the airwaves, fill the television waves. I would rather fill the hearts of people, which is more important than anything else.”
The 77-year-old challenged U.S. Rep. Mike Enzi, a Republican, and lost in 2014. This year, he enters a crowded race for Senate that includes at least 10 Republicans, an independent and another Democrat, Ryan Greene.
The primary is Aug. 16. The general election is Nov. 8.
Republican Liz Cheney, daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney, is expected to raise $1 million for the race. Hardy, who works as a substitute teacher, said he borrowed about $55,000 for his last campaign. This year, he will not borrow any money, meaning he is relying solely on contributions.
“I really believe Liz Cheney will be the nominee of the Republican Party in Wyoming,” he said. “And there is light-year differences between the way I see the world and the Cheney family sees the world.”
In addition to questioning campaign fundraising, Hardy supports raising the minimum wage, measures to eliminate the gender-wage gap and gay rights. He’s concerned about high school graduates’ access to college and skilled job training, and the plight of immigrants and former prisoners and felons.
Hardy said recent job losses in coal, oil and gas and uranium demonstrates how politicians have failed to diversify the economy. That’s because they care more about millionaire CEOs than workers, he said.
Hardy wears Levis that cost around $50 a pair. They’re made in Egypt, he said.
“They could be sold for $50 in Wyoming and people could be sewing in Wyoming,” he said. “They could be paid even $25 an hour. They pump more than one of those out an hour.”
Hardy served as a Catholic priest for 29 years, including in parishes in Cheyenne, Laramie, Rock Springs and Casper. He was superintendent of Wyoming Catholic schools and was a missionary in South America, living for eight years in a cardboard-and-tin shack on the outskirts of Caracas. He wrote a book about his experiences during that time, “Cowboy in Caracas: A North American’s Memoir of Venezuela’s Democratic Revolution.”
Hardy said he doesn’t plan to divert much from his 2014 campaign strategy. But he expects more young people to play a central role in his campaign. Only 10 percent of possible Wyoming voters between ages of 18 to 24 voted in the last election, he said.
A group of eager, mostly young volunteers are behind him – many of whom he met in recent months while campaigning for Democratic presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders, he said.
Will the bus return? He said he doesn’t know.
Hardy will continue with the 2014 theme of “Run with Charlie” – a reference to his morning ritual of running for 30 minutes or so.
“It’s been fun running in the past, but I’ve never felt the enthusiasm that I’ve felt today from these young people,” Hardy said. “I would much rather have volunteers than money, much rather. And enthusiastic volunteers.”