CHEYENNE, Wyo. — Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Charlie Hardy says he's not actively fundraising even though incumbent Sen. Mike Enzi has even more campaign cash than usual as he seeks re-election to a fourth term.
It's difficult enough for a Democrat to win an election in Wyoming, but this year Enzi has almost $1.8 million available for his campaign. That money largely is the result of a challenge Enzi faced from fellow Republican Liz Cheney last year.
Enzi hustled to fundraise after Cheney launched her campaign last summer. By the time Dick Cheney's daughter quit the race in January, Enzi had amassed a huge war chest.
Hardy, meanwhile, is a 75-year-old former Roman Catholic priest who says he lived in a cardboard shack for eight years when he ministered in Venezuela in the 1980s and 1990s. He figures he made about $75 a month in those days.
"As far as income, that's never been a priority in my life. You do what you should do because it's what you should do," Hardy said Thursday.
"I do have excellent credit. I have always paid my bills. On credit cards, I could probably drive my car around Wyoming for the next 100 years."
He said if he's elected, he'll probably make more money in his first year than he has in his whole life. A U.S. senator not in a leadership position makes $174,000 a year.
Hardy said he has received donations despite not going out of his way to solicit them. Early in his campaign, he asked the 300 or so people nationwide who receive Christmas letters from him every year to donate.
People from 24 states sent contributions, he said, and almost all were smaller than $100.
"And I've borrowed some money," he said. "If it turns out that by some slim chance I don't win the election, then I'll write to my friends and say, 'Hey, can you help me pay off some debt?' "
One supporter has offered the use of a 1978 school bus with a fresh motor that will become Hardy's campaign vehicle starting in the next couple of weeks, he said.
Enzi has been campaigning around Wyoming on weekends and has held fundraisers in several counties over the past few months, said his campaign spokeswoman, Kristin Walker.
"Thousands of Wyoming residents continue to give their support to Sen. Enzi. And others outside the state appreciate his less-is-more approach to government," she said.
Four Republicans are challenging Enzi in the Aug. 19 primary: Thomas Bleming of Lusk, a self-described soldier of fortune; Arthur Bruce Clifton of Cheyenne, an oil company worker; Bryan E. Miller of Sheridan, a retired Air Force officer and energy consultant; and James "Coaltrain" Gregory of Jackson.
Others seeking the Democratic nomination besides Hardy include Al Hamburg, a retired sign painter from Torrington; and Rex Wilde of Cheyenne, a worker with a contracting company.