Bill Sniffin: What Kind Of Political Stew Will Occur In Wyoming In 2022?

Bill Sniffin writes: Liz is everywhere. While her stock was rising nationally, her support back here in Wyoming was evaporating. Her battles with former President Donald Trump have reached legendary levels.

Bill Sniffin

February 04, 20224 min read

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(Cowboy State Daily Staff)

By Bill Sniffin, publisher emeritus

This year 2022 was once upon a time shaping up to be one of the most fun political years in memory.

The last big election year like this, back in 2018, was a doozy, with three governor candidates spending over $2 million each, plus we got to see over 10,000 Democrat and Independent voters cross over on election day. Wow, what a series of events.

It is beginning to look like the performance this year may fail to live up to the potential for drama we had earlier anticipated.

For example, here are three races I was foreseeing this year:

First, I thought incumbent Gov. Mark Gordon would be seeing GOP primary opposition from Harriet Hageman or Sam Galeotos or perhaps even some others emerging to take on the battle-scarred incumbent. By battle-scarred, I mean I have not seen a governor in the last 50 years deal with the crazy monetary and COVID-fueled crises that confronted Gordon. The assumption could be that he might be vulnerable.

So far, no such scenario has developed. Gordon is facing just token opposition, I believe, because of the general belief that he really did a helluva job. But news value? This might end up being one of the most boring governor’s races in history.

Second, observers are licking their chops over incumbent U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney’s fight to save her job in Congress. Not since her father Dick Cheney was vice president, U.S. Sen. Al Simpson was Majority Whip, or how Sen. John Barrasso has achieved a high GOP position, has a Wyoming politician become such a media darling. Liz is everywhere. 

While her stock is rising nationally, her support back here in Wyoming is evaporating. 

Her battles with former President Donald Trump have reached legendary levels and their back-and-forth sniping is everyday national news.

Then Trump anointed Cheyenne attorney Harriet Hageman as his choice to run against Cheney. Poof, there went a contested governor’s race from Hageman. And boy, Hageman has jumped into this fray with both feet. This is nasty and getting worse.

Now, I have long predicted this fight was not going to happen. Liz Cheney is a very smart person. If she runs for re-election, she has almost everything to lose and almost nothing to gain. She has raised a boatload of money which she can use for a 2024 presidential race and to also bolster other moderate Republicans across the county.

And then, recently, Cheney told 30 members of the Wyoming Bankers Association that, yes, she is going to run. If so, that Hageman-Cheney fight, with Trump hovering over it, will be a classic. As a political observer, I hope it happens. She has until May to make an official decision. We are waiting with bated breath.

Former U. S. Sen. Al Simpson called me recently and said if there is a Hageman-Cheney race, he sees little difference between the candidates except that one hates Trump and the other loves Trump.

“Otherwise, they are the same!” he exclaims. 

He says he is surprised that he has not seen any ads, billboards, or bumper stickers for Hageman.

He was in a car headed to Laramie to watch a UW basketball game with his wife Ann, son Colin and Colin’s wife Deb. He said the vote was 3-1 in the car that Liz would not run again.

A third race to talk about:

A month ago, out of the blue, Superintendent of Public Instruction Jillian Balow bolted from her Wyoming job to take a similar high-profile state education job in Virginia. We are proud of her. That is a big job and she will be performing under some seriously bright spotlights. I think she will do great things and Wyoming’s loss is Virginia’s gain. You cannot begrudge her jumping at the opportunity.

The last time a sitting state superintendent resigned was when Trent Blankenship left in 2005 to move to Alaska, where he had a career in education there. One of his notable achievements was to get an artificial turf football field built up there in the tundra at Barrow. Sports Illustrated even ran a feature about it.

The Wyoming GOP submitted three nominees to Gov. Gordon recently for his selection to succeed Balow and he picked Brian Schroeder, who runs a small private school in Cody called Veritas Academy.

Schroeder will run for re-election. Two others expressing strong interest are former legislator Dave Northrup of Powell and Megan Degenfelder, a former official in the Department of Education.

It is hard not to love election cycles. But as stated above, this one has the potential to turn into an impossible burger compared to the Filet Mignon we had hoped to see.

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Bill Sniffin

Wyoming Life Columnist

Columnist, author, and journalist Bill Sniffin writes about Wyoming life on Cowboy State Daily -- the state's most-read news publication.