Tuesday’s election in Harney County, Oregon where an armed militia led by Ammon and Ryan Bundy took over the Malheur National Wildlife Preserve earlier this year, was a test to see where voters’ sympathy actually lay. Several officials who had been criticized by the Bundys were up for reelection and candidates who openly supported the Bundy standoff packed the ballot.
Across the state, voter turnout was high but Harney County had a record turnout with 72 percent of eligible voters casting ballots. And those voters decisively rejected candidates who expressed support for the armed takeover of the wildlife preserve or else otherwise expressed sympathy for the militia’s anti-government stance.
During their occupation, the Bundys demanded the resignation of County Judge Steve Grasty and County Commissioner Pete Runnels. Gratsky retired this year and Runnels, who ran to replace him as county judge, received 53 percent of the vote.
But the issue is far from resolved as the Bundy brothers and more than 20 other militants have been indicted on federal charges because of their participation in the Bundy standoff or a similar armed standoff two years ago in Nevada.
Of those indicted so far, only Corey Lequieu has pleaded guilty. Yesterday, Lequieu entered his guilty plea in answer to charges of using force, intimidation and threats to impede federal officers. The other members of the militia are likely to be tried together beginning in September.
The Bundy brothers themselves refused to enter pleas and thus pleas of not guilty were entered by the court on their behalf. Angie Bundy, wife of Ryan Bundy, said she was surprised anyone pleaded guilty to the charges in the first place:
‘He’s not guilty of any crime. He didn’t do damage to anybody. My husband’s standing on principle. He’s looking at the larger picture. He’s not going to plead guilty.’
These sentiments, often echoed by candidates in the Oregon election, show the degree to which the Bundy standoff with its anti-government stance has taken hold in some places and even seems to have had some effect on the rhetoric of the right in the current presidential election where anti-government sentiments often take the form of arguments calling for so-called religious liberty or refer to the PC police. Regardless, American voters across the country can only hope to have as good of a turnout as Harney County did and with similar results too.
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