A conservative pro-gun organization is trumpeting its victories in its efforts to defeat legislative candidates in last week’s primary election that it saw as too moderate.
Wyoming Gun Owners (WYGO) has posted items on its Facebook page throwing barbs at defeated legislative candidates including state Sen. Michael Von Flatern, R-Gillette, and Erin Johnson, a Republican who sought to unseat state Sen. Anthony Bouchard, R-Cheyenne.
“Senator Michael Von Flatern — you’re gonna have a lot more time to work on your cooking skills after that 64% – 36% shiner you took to the face (Tuesday) night,” read one posting, accompanied by a picture of Von Flatern baking. “Your mistake was in thinking that WYGO was like every other lobby group, that we would eventually want to play nice. We don’t want to play nice, we want to save our freedoms. You got in the way…..gun owners removed you.”
Von Flatern said he did not understand why WYGO was continuing to comment on candidates who were no longer in the race.
“I don’t have any idea why they’re doing it other than they want to prove a point,” he told Cowboy State Daily. “I would assume I’m done and they know that I’m done. They’re still attacking me because they’re vindictive. They won. They should just take it and go.”
Also targeted by WYGO was Sen. Ogden Driskill, R-Devils Tower, who is in the middle of his four-year term.
WYGO mentioned Driskill’s support for Von Flatern and Rep. Tyler Lindholm, R-Sundance, who lost in his re-election bid.
“Folks rumor has it ole Oggy was alternating between sobbing and panic attacks all day today,” another posting said. “You see, the Lindholm House seat is half of Oggy’s Senate seat. And Lindholm lost after calling for a tax increase….the same one Oggy called for.”
Driskill said he found attacks against candidates after they lose the election to be in poor taste.
“To trash somebody after they’ve lost and they’ve graciously congratulated the winner, to kick dirt on them and to gloat over it is un-Christian and it’s unbelievably crass and it’s really a bad way to do politics,” he said.
Driskill, who has been a staunch defender of Second Amendment issues while a member of the Legislature, said he found it interesting he would be labeled as “anti-gun” by WYGO.
He added WYGO used his association with other lawmakers to cast doubt on their stances.
“I think it’s pretty sad that I endorse somebody and they call them a liberal and (the candidate has) never had a chance to cast a vote (on legislation),” he said. “They decide they want to call them a liberal for whatever reason. I call it character assassination.”
Lindholm said he has not seen such comments being made after an election.
“I’ve never seen a pile-on after a defeat,” he said. “Usually the person who is defeated concedes and the person who won comes out and says ‘Good race, let’s move on to the next one.’”
Lindholm added that because WYGO is a lobbying organization, it may have to work with some of the people it has criticized.
“The reality is you’re going to have to work with these people again,” he said. “With this organization coming out and still swinging their baseball bat shows kind of a lack of understanding on the part of that leadership.”
Driskill and Lindholm agreed such tactics are more common in other areas.
“They’re creating the same exact culture that Washington, D.C., has,” Driskill said. “You take somebody down and strip their dignity. When you do this character assassination, you divide everybody into camps and you make everything partisan.”
Johnson, who challenged Sen. Anthony Bouchard, R-Cheyenne, in his bid for re-election, was also criticized by WYGO after the primary.
“Erin…..if you have to assure people you’re not part of the swamp, you’re in trouble. Which is, umm, why you lost,” said a post written in response to a posting from Johnson that discussed the campaign. “WYGO has dealt with scum like you for over a decade…and we’ll be exposing scum like you for the next decade. Nice try….but gun owners can smell a fraud from 100 miles away. #LOSER.”
Britney Wallesch, a Democrat who will face Bouchard in the general election, also questioned the tactic in her own Facebook post.
“It’s not enough that she lost because of blatant lies, which the governor himself refuted, but they had to gloat over it, too,” she wrote. “We can know a man by who his friends are.”