Conservative folk-hero Cliven Bundy says that he and Republican presidential candidate Rand Paul are “in tune with each other.”
The Kentucky senator met the indebted rancher on Monday, when Paul held a question-and-answer session for “about 50 supporters and activists interested in land rights,” in the the town of Mesquite, Nevada, the Associated Press reported.
Bundy is likely the most famous “land rights activist” in the United States. For more than 20 years, Bundy has been grazing his cattle on federal land without paying the requisite fees, accruing a debt of more than $1 million to the Bureau of Land Management. The rancher doesn’t deny withholding the fees, but he believes the federal government has no authority over the land. In April 2013, the BLM tried to collect on his debt, by confiscating Bundy’s cattle. But when they closed in on the bovines outside of Bunkersville, Nevada, they were met by hundreds of heavily armed Bundy supporters. To avoid a stand-off, the BLM withdrew. Bundy became the toast of several conservative media outlets before he told The New York Times that black people were better off as slaves, and he was abruptly disowned by his former champions.
Paul doesn’t share Bundy’s views on race, but he is sympathetic to the rancher’s notions about “federally owned” land, telling the AP that he supports returning such land back to state control. “I think almost all land use issues and animal issues, endangered species issues, ought to be handled at the state level,” he said.
Paul’s event in Mesquite was part of a statewide tour of Nevada, in which he’s tried to put in face time with the state’s “small-government” Republicans. Paul told the AP that he’ll need the support of such voters to win the Nevada’s presidential caucus in February.
“In general, I think we’re in tune with each other. I don’t think we need to ask Washington, D.C. for this land. It’s our land,” Bundy told the AP after his meeting with Paul.