California Attorney General Kamala Harris, a candidate for U.S. Senate, on Sunday sharply criticized the armed activists occupying a remote national wildlife refuge in Oregon, calling the protestors “crazy” and their actions “obnoxious.”
Harris, after finishing a 20-minute speech to fellow Democrats that marked the start of her campaign reboot, was asked by an audience member what she would do to protect public lands and wildlife “from crazies like up in Oregon.”
Harris said California’s congressional delegation has been particularly successful over time at preserving forests and refuges like the one in Oregon. But she said it also is a matter “of just looking at folks and just knowing that we can wait them out sometimes as long as they are not creating a threat to that economy.”
“But they are crazy, you’re right,” Harris said in response. “They are crazy. I mean there’s no question.”
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The armed standoff, led by Ammon Bundy, has persisted in Burns, Ore., despite repeated calls by officials to vacate the building. It began earlier this month when the activists took over the building in support of ranchers facing additional prison time for arson and has drawn attention to the federal government’s control over vast amounts of rangeland.
Harris said she sympathized with local, state and federal law enforcement in charge of handling the standoff.
“It’s annoying, and it’s obnoxious what they are doing,” she said of Bundy’s group.
Harris is the leading candidate for the seat being vacated by retiring Sen. Barbara Boxer, who drew repeated praise Sunday for her environmental record. Asked about the massive natural gas leak that has displaced thousands from the Porter Ranch suburb here, Harris declined comment, citing her position as the state’s top law enforcement official. Instead, she used the question to talk about the general need for infrastructure improvements.