A not so Hardy start to a congressional campaign

No one really knew who Cresent Hardy was until Wednesday.

Now a lot of people know, in Nevada and nationally, and it may be remembered as the day the assemblyman's campaign for Congressional District Four ended.

Hardy’s maladroit use of the word “segregation” in proximity to talking about employment discrimination in a Las Vegas Sun interview, followed by his throwback reference to welfare queens in an appearance before Hispanics in Politics provided media fodder and ensures he probably needs 100 percent turnout in rural Nevada to have any chance against Rep. Steven Horsford. And even if he enhanced his candidacy in the primary against Niger Innis, who happens to be African-American --  and even the most inveterately cynical can’t believe that -- Hardy’s campaign unveiling was the most comically offensive show since “Springtime for Hitler.”

Yes, I exaggerate. But politics, especially campaigns, are about hyperbole and using words as bludgeons to maim candidacies. And Hardy, the epitome of the laconic rural lawmakers (he speaks shortly and uses adjectives where adverbs should reside), said too many in the last 24 hours, from newspapers to radio to Dona Maria’s restaurant.

It doesn’t take much to unleash the Democratic machine if a Republican wanders into dicey rhetorical territory. But when Zach Hudson,  the man riding shotgun, and always firing multiple shots, saw what Hardy said to the Sun’s Andrew Doughman, he raced to ensure the national media picked up on the comment. It  has now been published in Mother Jones, Huffington Post, Think Progress and other willing receptacles.

To be fair to Hardy, what he said in context was not as offensive as what Doughman initially reported when he asked the incipient candidates about the federal Employment Non-Discrimination Act:

“When we create classes, we create that same separation that we’re trying to unfold somehow,” he said. “By continuing to create these laws that are what I call segregation laws, it puts one class of a person over another. We are creating classes of people through these laws.”

That’s still pretty tone-deaf because the use of that word, segregation, obviously is inflammatory in almost any context. But Hardy, who joked Wednesday morning about his speaking abilities, probably didn’t even realize what he was doing. Doughman, to his great credit, later posted the entire exchange, which made it better and worse for Hardy.

Better because it’s clear he was not talking about racial segregation; it was just clodspeak. But worse because he equated ENDA with hate crimes, which is just obtuse.

Doughman’s post didn’t slow down the tweeting/emailing human Gatling Gun named Hudson, and the damage is done. Or will be done, especially in the urban core that makes up more than 80 percent of the district’s population and will be most of the vote in June and November.

I asked Hardy about the remarks as the Hudson delivery system had helped make the comments go viral even before the HIP meeting. “I don’t know that I called it segregation,” Hardy told me. “I believe these laws continue to separate us as individuals.”

Yes. He did. And now we get the “doubling down” releases….

One national reporter, Amanda Terkel of HuffPo, later tweeted: “Based on Hardy's logic, we'd have to repeal existing nondiscrimination law… or pass ENDA. Only way LGBT isn't singled out.”

Hardy may not have been expecting any progressive votes anyhow. But methinks this kind of stuff crosses ideological lines at some point.

During a Q and A with Innis at an otherwise uneventful HIP breakfast, both candidates came out against gay marriage and then were asked about helping the less fortunate. As part of his answer, Hardy asserted: “Whenever somebody pulls up in front of a welfare district in a big fancy Escalade, you think they need welfare.”

Forget the grammar. Forget the use of the phrase “welfare district.” Who uses such stereotypes anymore? Really?

Innis is a much more dynamic and articulate candidate than Hardy, although he has been snubbed by the GOP elites, who are embracing the fellow who used the word "segregation" and, obliquely, talked about welfare queens. But Hardy may well win the primary if Innis can’t raise money, and Gov. Brian Sandoval & Co. go all out. I would not segregate his chances from Innis's so quickly.

And maybe, just maybe it will be enough, as both Republicans tried Wednesday morning, to talk about Horsford being under the evil triumvirate’s thumb. You know, Obama-Reid-Pelosi. Get ready to hear that a lot, no matter who wins in June.

The bad news for Hardy is what happened during his campaign opening has portents of gaffes to come.

The good news for Hardy: There’s still time for him to file for his old Assembly seat.