CASA GRANDE — Tucson resident and former Navy SEAL Eli Crane built a thriving company selling, in its own words, “the most Bad Ass bottle openers on the market” made out of bullets and frag grenades. Now, Crane is running for Arizona’s 1st Congressional District seat.

Crane announced his candidacy last week in a video during which he claims Washington politicians “have no skin in the game” as he gets a fresh tattoo on his arm that reads “We The People.”

Crane said that he was motivated to run for Congress due to an overall concern for the direction of the country, which he said is the wrong direction. Crane noted he had considered a run for office in the past but had wanted to wait until his daughters got a little older.

“My wife and I prayed and thought about it,” Crane said, “and after several weeks of mulling it over we decided I can keep complaining about the country or do something about it.”

Crane emphasized that his family — wife Jen, who co-runs Bottle Breachers with him — and two daughters remain his top priority, and that they were extremely supportive of his decision.

When Crane was a Navy SEAL deployed in Iraq, he worked under Chris Kyle, whose autobiography “The American Sniper” was later produced as a film starring Bradley Cooper. Kyle was tragically murdered in 2013, and Crane says it was really tough emotionally to take the news and attend the funeral.

A more recent influence Crane cites is conservative commentator Candace Owens Farmer, whom he calls “one of the most courageous people in this country.”

The issues Crane said he is most focused on include border security and election reform. Crane said it is time to go back to “Trump era policies” and that friends of his who are Border Patrol agents said the switch from Trump to Biden was “night and day.” Crane supports security measures that would act as an “overdeterrent” against illegal immigration — intelligence, border agents, funding for a wall — but that he “absolutely loves” legal immigration, which he said is a hallmark of this country.

On elections, Crane stopped short of calling the 2020 election fraudulent, in Arizona or the nation, but said he supports a number of measures to change how Americans vote.

Some of the proposals Crane said he would support include ending early voting, cleaning up voter rolls, mandating voter IDs, making election day a federal holiday and getting rid of machines to return to hand counts. Crane said it is “disappointing” that critics of the forensic audit in Arizona are calling people kooks or conspiracy theorists.

“These elections belong to the people and are paid for by the people,” Crane said, “and if we the people want to check them, I will always support that.”

The company leading the Arizona election audit, Cyber Ninjas, had come under fire for failing to disclose their funding sources. This week, Cyber Ninjas released information on where the $5.6 million audit funding had come from. The list is highlighted by a number of Trump-supporting, right-wing groups, including The America Project, which has accounted for over half of the contributions.

Crane also said he is a “big Second Amendment guy” and he would fight hard against critical race theory, which he called “divisive” and “racist at its core,” and that Crane would support measures to keep it out of institutions like schools and government.

“Critical race theory has roots in cultural Marxism,” Crane said. “And the goal of Marxism is to divide and conquer. Originally, Karl Marx tried to divide us up along economic lines. Now instead of just economic, they are trying to divide us up by race.”

When asked about water policy within Arizona and the 1st District, Crane said it wasn’t something he’d researched yet but campaign rep Katie Miller said that “he really wants to dig in on the issue.”

Though born in Tucson, Crane said his father moved his family to Yuma, and he did not return to the Sun Corridor until college. Crane was just starting his senior year at the University of Arizona when the events of 9/11 occurred and Crane was motivated to drop out and join the military.

Crane’s favorite places in Arizona are Sedona and Sabino Canyon, which he said is one of his favorite places to hike with his two daughters, or go and relax on a retreat with his wife.

While he “wasn’t super familiar” with the 1st District, Crane said he was planning to meet with as many constituents as he could, even those who might not share his views, over the next year and a half. According to Crane, listening is one of the most important qualities in a leader.

“I’m a very quick learner,” Crane said. “I was able to build a team and multimillion-dollar brand just by figuring things out on the fly. I think I am courageous when others are scared.”

The campaign has already raised over $100,000 during its first week, and Crane has appeared on a number of right wing media outlets including Sean Hannity, the Daily Caller, and The Mark Levin Show. The latter radio personality formally endorsed Crane on air, calling him “the kind of representative we need.”

At least one other Republican, state Rep. Walter Blackman, R-Snowflake, is running for the congressional seat. Arizona’s 1st District is the 11th largest district by geographic size in the country, comprising five counties in north and eastern Arizona as well as much of Pinal County. The district has been held by Rep. Tom O’Halleran, D-Sedona, since 2016. A state commission currently is redrawing Arizona’s districts.

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Aaron Dorman is the Casa Grande reporter at PinalCentral, covering government, schools, business and more. He can be reached at adorman@pinalcentral.com.

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