WASHINGTON, May 4, 2014— Georgia GOP Senate candidate Derrick Grayson—known to many by his YouTube sobriquet, the ‘Minister of Truth’—spoke from the rugged hills of Clark County, Nevada on Sunday, where he held a press conference alongside embattled rancher Cliven Bundy.
The grassroots underdog is one of seven candidates gunning for retiring Sen. Saxby Chanbliss’ open Senate seat. With just two weeks to go before voters head to the polls, Grayson has undertaken a major gamble by jetting thousands of miles away to double down on a controversial cause.
Adorned with matching cowboy hats, the two men engaged in a winding conversation that touched on everything from federal power to gun control to Rosa Parks’ seat on the bus.
“When I see you and have heard you talk, I started to think: ‘here’s a man that I can communicate with,” Bundy said to his guest. “He’s caring about something that’s very important, he’s caring about each one of us individually. To me, that’s what the Constitution is all about, what the gospel of Jesus Christ is all about, and to me they’re the same.”
Bundy catapulted into the national spotlight last month when armed representatives of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) attempted to seize his cattle due to overdue unpaid grazing fees. Dozens of gun-toting supporters rushed to the rancher’s aid, fending off the federal officials and freeing cattle from the BLM’s custody.
Many of these protesters remain hunkered down on Bundy’s ranch, sleeping in tents and demonstrating their solidarity against the government’s perceived overreach.
“The only reason it wasn’t a blood bath is because people had camera phones and video phones and people were packing heat,” Grayson said of the stand-off.
Bundy turned to his sister, Chrissy, at one point to describe conditions on the front lines the day the BLM conflict escalated.
“All I can say is, fear came into me a few times. As soon as that fear came into me, a peace came over me,” she said. “I knew without a doubt that we were being watched over, that this was so powerful.”
Bundy expressed gratitude for the citizen militia that gathered in his name to defend his family’s livestock against the BLM officers.
“Before the militia was here, we had harassment,” he explained. “We had violence going on wth my property, my livestock, my children, my neighbor’s children, and not only children these are grown men theyre beating down and even older women.”
“I was happy the militia was there. When they positioned [themselves], they had those citizens covered, and it looked to me that if those bureaucratic agents would have pulled the trigger, the militiamen would have taken care of them real fast.”
The showdown unfolding in these rural Nevada lands has sparked a nationwide conservative movement supporting the rights of citizens to flout federal government decrees that they deem unconstitutional. In Bundy’s case, this took the form of declining to pay federal fees on land that he believed rightfully in the possession of the state of Nevada.
Grayson and Bundy spent much of their nearly hour-long discussion focusing on the importance of hewing to constitutional values. Both warned of the oppression they feel lies in the offing if Washington is allowed to continue on its current trajectory.
“We will find more and more of our rights being eroded day by day,” Grayson said. “When Harry Reid called you guys domestic terrorists, all he was doing was laying the groundwork for indefinite detention.”
Shortly after the BLM dust-up that landed him and his followers on every front page in America, Bundy saw his star severely dimmed when excerpts of racially charged comments he had made surfaced in the New York Times.
Reluctant Republican allies were quick to distance themselves from the rancher, and the media met his remarks with swift and total condemnation.
Bundy approached the subject of race with a levity that drew chuckles from the small cluster of onlookers present, joking that he was likely to get himself into trouble by touching the subject again.
“They take the fact that you used the word ‘colored’ and tried to run with it and make it into something else,” Grayson said in defense of the rancher. “The press makes race matter to us because we allow them to. It is a tool in their toolbox.”
Bundy mused on the true meaning of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s abiding dream, wondering aloud if Rosa Parks’ world-famous decision to take respite at the front of an Alabama bus is a fitting representation of the Reverend’s vision.
“I say that wasn’t his dream,” Bundy argued. “What his dream was, was that [Parks] could have any seat on the bus; that everybody could have a seat on any place in that bus.”
Grayson also delivered his interpretation of King’s teachings, lamenting that the government and the press create a vicious cycle that keeps his dream from being fully realized to this day.
Though the first-time political candidate frequently mentioned the need for voters to send a different class of lawmakers to Washington, he refrained from mentioning his own candidacy back home in Georgia. In a pair of televised interviews after the press conference, he identified himself as a concerned citizen, not as a Senate contender.
The most recent numbers out of the Peach State put businessman David Perdue at the top of the field, with former Ga. Secretary of State Karen Handel claiming a close second. Three sitting congressmen–Reps. Jack Kingston, Phil Gingrey, and Paul Broun–trail the frontrunners, while Grayson and patent attorney Art Gardner bring up the rear, splitting three percent.
The May 20th primary will likely give way to a run-off, which will pit the top two performers against each other until June. Georgia’s Republican nominee will face Democratic non-profit head Michelle Nunn in the general election.
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