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States' rights rancher Ryan Bundy to run for Nevada governor

(Reuters) - Ryan Bundy, who was at the forefront of two armed confrontations between right-wing militia activists and the U.S. government over the past four years, said on Thursday he planned to run for Nevada governor on a states’ rights platform.

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Bundy, 45, said in a telephone interview he would mount a petition drive to qualify for the November ballot as an independent candidate, and canvass the state to gather support in “face-to-face conversations” with voters.

“I intend to secure the sovereignty of the state of Nevada and its land and resources for the people of Nevada,” he said.

He did not elaborate. But his rhetoric echoed a conservative political movement known as the “sagebrush rebellion” that has called for the U.S. government to relinquish control of vast federal land holdings within several Western states.

Nevada’s Republican governor, Brian Sandoval, is barred under state law from seeking a third term.

Bundy’s father, Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy, became a hero of Western states’ rights advocates in 2014 after his refusal to pay grazing fees he owed the federal government, prompting the court-ordered confiscation of Bundy’s cattle.

Hundreds of supporters rallied to his cause, leading to an armed standoff near Bunkerville, Nevada, about 75 miles northeast of Las Vegas. Government agents and police, vastly outgunned, ultimately retreated rather than risk bloodshed.

Cliven Bundy, his sons Ryan and Ammon, and militia member Ryan Payne were all criminally charged as conspirators in the case, but a mistrial was declared in December 2017. The judge later dismissed the charges, citing prosecutorial misconduct.

In 2016, Ryan and Ammon Bundy were acquitted by a federal court jury in a separate case stemming from their roles in an armed takeover earlier that year of a federal wildlife refuge in Oregon.

Ryan Bundy, who lives in the town of Mesquite, Nevada, near the Arizona border, where he ranches and works in construction, said he would file his campaign petition next week.

Under Nevada law, a candidate unaffiliated with either major party must gather 250 signatures of registered voters by June 1 to qualify for the ballot.

Bundy said he was aware he may draw votes way from the Republican nominee, possibly boosting the chances of a liberal Democrat getting elected.

“I can’t be concerned about that, this is about principles,” he said, adding that both major parties had failed to uphold the rights of Nevada’s citizens.

Reporting by Keith Coffman in Denver; Editing by Steve Gorman and Peter Cooney