By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily
Republican candidates for one of Wyoming’s U.S. Senate seats discussed issues ranging from the destruction of Confederate monuments and immigration reform to stimulus packages during their first debate Tuesday night.
Nine of the 10 Republican candidates eyeing the U.S. Senate seat now held by U.S. Sen. Mike Enzi gathered in Sheridan for the debate, held just one month before Wyoming’s primary election.
Former U.S. Rep. Cynthia Lummis of Cheyenne, Michael Kemler of Lander, R. Mark Armstrong of Centennial, Star Roselli of Arizona, Josh Wheeler of Casper, Bryan Miller of Sheridan, Donna Rice of Casper, Robert Short of Douglas and John Holtz of Laramie participated in the debate at Sheridan College. The nine candidates were split into two groups for the event, with Lummis, Wheeler, Rice, Miller and Kemler facing off for the first round and Roselli, Holtz, Short and Armstrong making up the roster for the second.
During the first round, Lummis stated her opposition to the destruction of monuments seen around the country.
“We need to respect our history,” she said. “If we forget our history, we’re bound to repeat it.”
The candidates agreed with each other more often than not on issues such as their support for a more secure border and their disapproval of the federal government bailing out states with coronavirus relief funds, although they usually had differing ideas on how to approach those issues in Congress.
“We need to have more of a defensive perimeter and have a proper barrier to keep people from coming in illegally,” Wheeler said. “I’d rather see see an immigration system that favors those who come here legally and not put them on a back burner.”
Areas where the candidates were split included the federal coronavirus relief legislation, which Lummis supported and Miller opposed, and their support for Dr. Anthony Fauci, a White House advisor on health issues who has taken center stage during the coronavirus pandemic.
“[Fauci] is a scientist, but he’s been wrong a lot,” Miller said. “The country, as a whole, is in worse shape for listening to someone we knew was wrong two weeks into the pandemic.”
During the second round, Holtz, Roselli, Short and Armstrong sparred over issues including the Centers for Disease Control, social media regulations and federal debt.
“The federal government is addicted to spending,” Armstrong said during the debt discussion. “We need to get away from baseline budgeting. We can’t keep letting the federal government just keep printing money.”
The candidates’ viewpoints differed wildly on the subject of Social Security, with Armstrong calling it a “huge burden,” while Roselli and Short argued its value to the country’s elderly. Holtz declared that taxing Social Security benefits was wrong, and once Congress eliminated the taxes on it, the benefits would be more clear.
One of the moderators had to interject about midway through the second debate, reminding the candidates to stay on topic.
During the second round, Roselli also touted a conspiracy theory that Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg (whom she mistakenly referred to as “Jeff”) is the grandson of David Rockefeller and that the Central Intelligence Agency provided funding for the social media website in its early days.
The only Republican candidate not to take part in the debate was Philadelphia resident Devon Cade.
Wyoming’s primary election is Aug. 18. A total of 16 people are running for U.S. Sen. Mike Enzi’s soon-to-be open seat, 10 Republicans and six Democrats.
Democrats on the primary ballot include former gubernatorial candidate Rex Wilde of Cheyenne, James Kirk DeBine of Evansville, Kenneth Casner of Elk Mountain, Merav Ben David of Laramie, Nathan Wendt of Jackson and Yana Ludwig of Laramie.
The Democratic Senate debate will be held Thursday night.