By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily
Rep. Dan Zwonitzer, R-Cheyenne, said he was blindsided over the weekend when he discovered his residency was a topic of discussion during the Wyoming Republican Party’s central committee meeting.
The Wyoming House Speaker Eric Barlow R-Gillette said Friday he has started to collect information as part of an investigation into Zwonitzer’s residency requested by the Wyoming Republican Party’s central committee.
In an interview with Cowboy State Daily on Friday, Zwonitzer called the accusations that he does not live in House District 43, which he has represented for 18 years, “ludicrous,” adding the state GOP’s call for an investigation into his residency a “political hit job.”
“Why would my own party attack me without giving me the benefit of a simple phone call or email?” Zwonitzer said.
He noted that the residency complaint came up as an “emergency issue” during the central committee meeting, and no one alerted him ahead of time about it.
The party’s central committee agreed Saturday to ask the secretary of state’s office to look into whether Zwonitzer has moved out of House District 43.
The decision was made in response to a concern raised by Joey Correnti IV, chairman of the Carbon County Republican Party, who said he wanted to see if the central committee thought the issue merited further review. Correnti said he was approached by others who made him aware of the problem and, after research to collect some documents, he took the matter directly to the central committee.
Zwonitzer said he was surprised to learn that questions about his residency in HD43 had been circulating for several weeks among Republican officials, while he had heard nothing about the issue.
He also questioned who gave the information to Correnti.
On Thursday, Secretary of State Ed Buchanan referred the complaint to the Wyoming House of Representatives. Zwonitzer has been asked to write an affidavit and collect information to send to House and Legislative Service Office officials, which he will likely have completed by next week.
“I don’t have any concerns [about the review],” he said. “I think I’ll be vindicated. I fully trust the legislative process to do what it does.”
On Friday, Barlow detailed the information he is collecting as he looks into the matter.
“I am conferring with House Leadership and LSO legal staff on the manner in which to proceed under the Wyoming Constitution and the Rules of the House of Representatives,” Barlow said. “Additionally, I have requested Representative Zwonitzer respond to the allegations in writing. Once I have received his response and understand the options available for resolving this matter in an appropriate and expeditious manner, I will propose a course of action.”
Zwonitzer believes the complaint is just a distraction from other political issues, such as the appointment of the new superintendent of public instruction, redistricting and the work that will need to be done when the Legislature convenes next month.
Redistricting is the process of redrawing House and Senate district boundaries to conform with new census figures.
Zwonitzer is the co-chair of the Legislature’s Joint Corporations, Elections and Political Subdivisions Committee, which is responsible for developing redistricting plans with an eye toward keeping population numbers within different districts as close to equal as possible.
As part of his presentation to the GOP central committee, Correnti said he was concerned that some of the redistricting plans proposed by Zwonitzer appeared to change the boundaries of HD43 to include the part of HD10 where Zwonitzer bought a residence with his spouse.
Zwonitzer said it is no secret that he bought a property near Carpenter, in HD10, where his spouse lives and is registered to vote. But Zwonitzer and his youngest child are living in HD43.
He added he has done his best to keep his personal feelings separate from his work on the redistricting maps.
As of now, he has no plans to move into HD10, but he did not rule the idea out in the future.
“I’m only 42, so never say never,” he said.