Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Sen. Cruz trying appeals to rural Nevada voters by backing federal transfer of land to states

U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas hopes to score big at today's Republican presidential caucus in Nevada by appealing to rural voters, specifically those who want federal land given to the state, Clark Mindock reports for International Business Times. "Hoping to pick up what is seen as a population with a libertarian streak in the northern part of the state, Cruz is using the controversial issue of federal and state land rights to convince voters he is the true and dedicated enemy of big government, a hallmark of both his tenure in the Senate and his candidacy." (National Geographic map; click on it for a larger version)

"Cruz’s plan to restore ownership of a massive amount of federally owned land in Nevada to the state’s citizens is in stark contrast with rival candidate Donald Trump’s proposals," Mindock writes. "Unlike Cruz—and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio—the billionaire has said he doesn’t trust states to manage their land responsibly. The strategy to pull in rural caucus participants who are passionate about this issue could narrow a polling gap and help Cruz beat Rubio—and perhaps even Trump."

"Land rights issues are particularly important to Nevadans—especially in northern counties—because of the sheer percentage of the state that is owned by the federal government," Mindock writes. "At 84.9 percent of the total land area, Nevada has more of its land owned by the national government than any other state. Critics of that level of ownership say the federal government wields outsized power in state affairs and cuts out the potential economic benefits that could come with opening up land to private investment and economic development, such as with expanded mining or logging in the state."

Cruz has long supported state and local land rights, Mindock writes. In 2014, he supported Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy when he "led an armed standoff in the state to protest fines leveled against him for illegally grazing his livestock on federal lands without a permit. Rubio, on the other hand, opposed it, saying in part that, 'No matter how worthy your cause may be, you cannot violate the law.' Trump’s stance fell somewhere in the middle, saying Bundy needed to follow the laws, before the businessman sang a familiar refrain: 'He’s in a great position to cut a great deal and I think that’s what he should do.'”

Eric Herzik, chairman of the political science department at the University of Nevada, Reno, told Mindock, “Cruz has targeted, in particular, rural voters because that is also where the most conservative voters live. This is just a to-die-for issue in the rural areas. If you go out to the rural areas you’ll hear complaints about ‘federal overreach.’" (Read more)

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