What do the presidential candidates think about the militia takeover in Oregon?

BY and  
Patches on the sleeve of a militiaman is seen at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge near Burns, Oregon on Jan. 4, 2016. The leaders of a group of self-styled militiamen who took over a U.S. wildlife refuge headquarters over the weekend said Monday they would indefinitely occupy the building to protest the federal government's role in governing wild lands. Several GOP presidential candidates weighed in on the situation. Photo by Jim Urquhart/Reuters

The leaders of a group of self-styled militiamen who took over a U.S. wildlife refuge headquarters over the weekend said Monday they would indefinitely occupy the building to protest the federal government’s role in governing wild lands. Several GOP presidential candidates weighed in on the situation. Photo by Jim Urquhart/Reuters

After some initial silence, Republican presidential candidates began to make calls for a peaceful end to the takeover of a small wildlife refuge by anti-government protesters 30 miles outside Burns, Oregon.

Although the armed group shares some beliefs with the Republican Party — especially the belief in limited federal government regulation — candidates largely voiced support for the issues the protesters brought forth, such as land rights, but fell short of endorsing their methods. In a statement posted to Facebook, leader of the occupation, Ammon Bundy, said he and his group planned to stay at the small complex “for as long as need be.”

The group said they occupied the remote federal building to support two local ranchers, Dwight Hammond Jr. and his son Steven Hammond, who were convicted of arson on a broad terrorism charge in 2012. The Hammonds distanced themselves from the anti-government group, and federal officials haven’t made any major plans to engage the protesters. The White House said it remained hopeful that the “situation can be resolved peacefully and without any violence.”

The NewsHour compiled the tweets, statements and TV appearances GOP candidates made about the occupation:

Sen. Ted Cruz told reporters before a campaign event in Iowa that he, too, hoped for a peaceful resolution in Oregon.

“Our prayers right now are with everyone involved with what’s happening in Oregon, especially in law enforcement,” he said. “Every one of us have a constitutional right to protest to speak our minds but we don’t have a constitutional right to use force and violence and to threaten force and violence on others. It is our hope that the protesters will stand down peaceably … There is no right to engage in violence, and it is our hope that this will be resolved peaceably,” he added.

Rancher Cliven Bundy, the father of Ammon Bundy, said he met with Sen. Rand Paul for several minutes at a campaign stop in Mesquite, Nevada. A spokesperson for Paul said such a scheduled meeting never took place.

Today, Paul said he was “sympathetic” to the idea that ownership of large federal lands be given back to states and the people, “but I think the best way to bring about change is through politics.”

“That’s why I entered the electoral arena,” he said. “I don’t support any violence or suggestion of violence toward changing policy.”

Sen. Marco Rubio told KBUR that “you gotta follow the law, you cannot be lawless.”

“We live in a republic. There are ways to change the laws of this country and the policies,” Rubio said. “If we get frustrated with it, that is why we have elections, that is why we have people we can hold accountable.”

Rubio goes on to say that he agreed there is too much federal control over land, especially in the Western part of the United States.

“There are states, for example, like Nevada, that are dominated by the federal government in terms of landholding, and we should fix it,” he said. “But no one should be doing it in a way that is outside of the law. We are a nation of laws and they should be respected,” he added.

In an interview on CNN’s “The Lead with Jake Tapper,” Ben Carson urged people to “try to look at things from both perspectives.”

“Why, in fact, do these ranchers feel that way. Let’s hear their grievances,” he said. “I don’t condone them taking over a federal building … We have better ways of expressing our displeasure than that, but the fact of the matter is there are legitimate grievances. There’s absolutely no reason the federal government should lay claim to so much land. I believe it would be a very wise thing to get that land back in the hands of the states and then let the states deal with it in an appropriate way,” Carson said.

Carson added that the ranchers needed to use the “regular channels” for addressing these issues.

In an interview with CNN’s Brooke Baldwin, Rick Santorum said he didn’t like the protesters’ tactics, “but I certainly didn’t like the tactics Occupy Wall Street was using. They were taking over land — city land and government land — and occupying that for quite some period of time,” he said.

“Well, armed or not armed, no one’s firing any shots, no one’s threatening to shoot anybody … I think patience is the appropriate way. These are folks that have legitimate grievances with the government just like, you could make the argument, that the Occupy Wall Street had legitimate grievances about, you know, income inequality.”

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie mirrored Cruz and Rubio’s sentiments about following the law.

Ohio Gov. John Kasich claimed ignorance on the situation. While campaigning in Iowa Monday, he told a reporter that, “I haven’t heard about this. When did this come out?”

The NewsHour political team will continue to update this post as additional candidates react to the ongoing situation in Oregon. And tune in to the NewsHour Monday night for further analysis of the president’s speech, including Politics Monday with NPR’s Tamara Keith and Amy Walter of the Cook Political Report.

SUBSCRIBE: Get the analysis of Mark Shields and David Brooks delivered to your inbox every week.

SHARE VIA TEXT